NORFOLK, Va More than 100 schools across Hampton Roads could be serving free breakfast and lunch to all students this year, but leaders decided not to sign up for the program.
There is still time to apply since the deadline for the expanded national school lunch program is August 31.
"School districts are proceeding with a little bit of caution because it is a new program," Norfolk Public Schools nutrition director Helen Phillips said.
It's a new USDA effort to expand healthy lunch, called the "community eligibility program." Here's how it works. If 40 percent of students at a school qualify for free lunch, then all the students can get free meals.
Right now, 142 Hampton Roads schools qualify for the program, but only 11 are signed up.
"The parent's won’t have to submit applications for meal benefits, which is a plus," Suffolk Public Schools nutrition director Brian Williams noted.
Norfolk and Suffolk are the only two school districts to take advantage of the deal so far. Many school leaders expressed concerns about having an added expense. For example, if just 40 percent of students are eligible for free lunch, the schools may have to pick up some of the tab for the program.
"You have to take into consideration some of the financial aspects of the program to make sure it's going to be suitable for your district," Williams explained.
If 60 percent of students qualify for free lunch, the federal government will cover the school’s cost at no charge. Right now, there are nearly 30 schools in Hampton Roads that qualify.