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Some school districts apply for free breakfast, lunch for all students

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  At least 55 Wisconsin school districts have applied for a federal program that gives all students free breakfast and lunch, regardless of their incomes. The Beloit district is one of the latest to be approved for the Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that was passed in 2010. Beloit had been offering universal breakfasts, and it will add lunch when fall classes begin September second.

The program applies to lower-income districts.

To qualify, at least 40-percent of students must be eligible to receive free-or-reduced-price school lunches. In Beloit, 77-percent qualify. School spokeswoman Janelle Marotz tells the Beloit Daily News that students cannot focus on learning when they're hungry, and in her words, "We have to take care of their physical needs before we can meet their academic needs."

Students will not have to submit income applications to receive the free meals -- but the Beloit district will still collect them for other funding programs.

Maureen Fitzgerald of the local Hunger Task Force says about Wisconsin districts and 200 individual schools have been approved for the universal meals -- and more could be approved by the time the program's application deadline on August 31st.