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      28 / 19

      Free meals for Sawyer elementary students

      Announcements over the intercom and the pledging of allegiance--they are part of most school's morning routine.

      But now all elementary students in Gwinn qualify for a new addition to their daily agenda: breakfast at no cost for parents.

      "I almost cried when I was reading the letter saying that we got it. I was so happy," said Pam Majewski, a parent of a Gilbert student. "I love it. I think it's great. It's a Godsend. My husband and I are on a very limited budget and right now it's helping us out a lot. It took a big burden off of us."

      As of September 19, breakfast and hot lunches are now free to all students from kindergarten to sixth grade at Gilbert and Sawyer Elementary Schools. The free meal options were made available after school administrators applied for funding through the Federal Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

      In order for Uncle Sam to pick up the tab, nearly half of the student population had to express need for federal assistance.

      "Part of qualifying for this program, I think you needed to be at a 40 percent free or reduced lunch rate, of which our school was and Sawyer Elementary, too," explained Bruce Matson, principal of Gilbert. "Already just knowing that we're above that 40 percent shows there was a need."

      This was a desperate need for some families.

      "We were struggling every month to figure out where we would find the money to feed her for lunch. I don't want to deny her a hot lunch," Majewski remarked.

      The school administration claim the benefits of these free meals go beyond budgetary confinements.

      "It's so important for kids to learn to have a good breakfast, have a good lunch and just make sure that that's not going to inhibit what they're able to do in school. It gives a safety net that kids are well fed," Matson said.