190716 Free Lauderdale County lunches 2

Debbie Cox and Jennifer Hill assemble storage bags and carts at Wilson High School that they will be using to provide school children in Lauderdale County schools with free breakfasts. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

For students in Lauderdale County, breakfast is free beginning in August when school starts back, compliments of the Universal Breakfast Program.

The federal feeding program, offered to schools that are already part of the School Breakfast program, will provide breakfast for all students regardless of income or eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch/breakfast.

The program is coming through a federal grant administered by the state.

Breakfast will be served in the cafeteria in most schools and in the classroom for pre-kindergarten through third-grade students at Lexington and Wilson. Central School will also offer breakfast in the classroom for its youngest students.

Lauderdale's Child Nutrition Program Director Lori Ferguson said the district was in severe need of increased breakfast participation and she expects this program to help.

"There's absolutely no stigma attached to this program because everyone is eating together regardless of their income level," Ferguson said. "It's a fact that children perform better in school academically when they've had breakfast."

The program begins when Lauderdale schools reopen on August 7.

She said the program helps school districts across the country increase breakfast participation. It also benefits families.

"Among the many benefits is that it's a money and time-saver for working families," Ferguson said. 

Jennifer Hill, the Wilson High School cafeteria manager said the program is expected to bring the increase they need in students eating breakfast.

"It's going to make a difference to the tune of 500 kids at our school just with pre-k through fifth grades and I anticipate about 300 more in fourth grade up," Hill said. "I feel like participation will increase as we go and get into it."

The breakfast items include some of everything according to Hill with hot and col foods.

There will even be a grab-and-go option of bagel boxes.

"There will be everything from sausage biscuits to pancakes to cereals and fresh fruits," Hill said. "We can know with this program that no children will be without the option of breakfast."

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