PA school lunch program gets an extra helping

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania has been awarded more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to strengthen enrollment in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs using the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Access to Social Services, or COMPASS, Web site.
 
Of the 10 states to receive funding, Pennsylvania’s grant, due in large part to the existence of COMPASS, was the largest. COMPASS streamlines the application process for various health and human service programs.
 
“Schools have a responsibility to foster an environment that is dedicated to student achievement, but that environment suffers when students are too hungry to focus on their work,” said Secretary of Public Welfare Estelle Richman. “Nutrition assistance initiatives such as this partnership provide a safety net that allows schools to provide nutritionally balanced meals to additional low-income, or at-risk children.”  
 
This is the first time that Pennsylvania has received federal funding to improve the direct certification process between local school districts and the DPW.  The department shares information regarding students receiving cash assistance or food stamps in order to certify their eligibility to obtain free meals through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.
 
This grant will enable DPW to work with the state Department of Education to expand the direct certification process through the COMPASS Web site. Under direct certification, local school districts are able to certify eligibility to participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program through COMPASS. A household does not need to submit a separate application to participate.
 
DPW and PDE have partnered since 1992 to ensure that students who receive cash assistance or food stamps are enrolled in programs that provide nutritionally-balanced meals at little or no cost.
 
“Research shows that students who have healthy, nourishing diets are better able to focus on their academic studies and positively participate in classroom activities,” Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak, Secretary of Education, said. “This grant is important to helping meet one of the critical needs of our children – a healthy breakfast and lunch.”
 
For more information about the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, visit www.pde.state.pa.us.  For additional information about COMPASS, go to www.compass.state.pa.us.
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