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Paperwork changes didn’t cut number of Nashville free lunch students

There might be such thing as a free lunch, after all.

For the first time this fall, new federal regulations meant students in Memphis and Nashville didn’t have to supply information about their family’s income to get free lunch at school, a move officials hoped would ensure more low-income students would eat during the school day.

But, as Chalkbeat reported in August, they worried about a hidden cost: Without the incentive of lunch for their children, parents might not turn in their income information to schools. And since those forms help determine how much federal funding a school district gets, a significant drop-off in returned paperwork could hit districts squarely in the wallet.

In Nashville, that didn’t happen. Last year, 74.1 percent of students in the district qualified for free and reduced lunch; this year, 74.4 percent turned in surveys showing they were economically disadvantaged.

Some schools did appear to have a drop in economically disadvantaged students because too many families didn’t turn in their forms, a report from the district shows. But overall, Joe Bass, a spokesman for Metro Schools said, “the district is on target.”

Chalkbeat hasn’t yet heard from Shelby County Schools.

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