READ | Superintendent spends $10K bonus on Marietta's college-bound seniors
By the end of the 2018-19 school year, that number was down to 54%, so the school system is required to collect applications from parents. Culver said that while the school system is glad the economic outlook for the city appears to be improving, more than half of its student population will still qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.
“We really want to stay focused on families who are in need to have access to complete the application,” Culver said.
READ | Breakfast, lunch now free to all students at 77 Atlanta schools
Park Street Elementary School Principal Diona McIntire said the new rules “have definitely been a shift” for parents. Before the start of the school year, the school began a public information campaign to educate parents about the change so their children can get a hot meal. McIntire said there are some parents who are worried about the implications of filling out an application.
“There’s definitely some fear from some of our parents who may be undocumented and who may have anxiety about filling out the applications,” she said.
That fear could be part of the reason why the school has seen significantly shorter lines for breakfast since school began on Aug. 1, the principal said. To make sure students won’t go hungry throughout the day, Park Street now keeps a stash of snacks students can nibble on if they can’t grab a meal.
READ | Marietta will renovate segregation-era school
“Kids don’t learn as well if they are hungry,” she said, adding the school will reach out to parents if they notice a child doesn’t have breakfast or lunch several days in a row.
To cover students who may rack up debt if they cannot pay for their meals, a new program called Lunch Angels has launched in the Marietta City Schools community. Teachers and residents can donate money to offset student debt incurred at any of the system’s schools. The new initiative has generated a lot of buzz in the community, as several adults have asked how they can contribute to the cause.
“That has been helpful for a lot of our families and students,” McIntire said.
Like Cobb County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter
For more information about Lunch Angels, contact Kim Blass, director of external affairs for the Marietta City School System at email@example.com.