BOSTON (CBS) — Boston Public Schools will offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students, regardless of their ability to pay, when the schools reopen Wednesday.

The city is participating in a federal program that will eliminate the need for families to fill out paperwork proving their eligibility for free or reduced-price meals for children.

“It allows our staff and our cashiers to focus on what’s really important and that’s ensuring students going through the line have the full reimbursable meal,  that they have everything on their plate because that’s our core business; feeding children,” said Michael Peck, the director of food service and nutrition for the district.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

Kids will still have to pay for snacks and other extras.

“Every child has a right to healthy, nutritious meals in school, and when we saw a chance to offer these healthy meals at no cost to them, we jumped at the chance,” said Mayor Tom Menino. “This takes the burden of proof off our low-income families and allows all children, regardless of income, to know healthy meals are waiting for them at school every day.”

Officials say almost 80-percent of the students already qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Last year, BPS launched a universal breakfast program that waived charges for all students for morning meals. BPS says the program saved families around $230 per child.

The new free lunch program means families will now save an additional $405 to $455 per child, a year.

The cost of lunch was $2.25 for elementary students and $2.50 for middle and high school students.

In total, BPS says the lunch charges alone added up to approximately $943,000 per year for families through reduced or full-price meals last school year.

However, BPS only collected about $585,000 of this total due to allowances for individual hardships or other situations.

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