KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Starting in the Fall, all students will eat for free, regardless of family income.
"It's hard, it's frustrating at times," Sarah Rogers said.
Rogers is a 25-year-old single mom. She's putting her five-year-old daughter Ziyan in Kindergarten this coming school year, while getting a degree herself.
"I have to keep pushing myself for my baby," she said.
Rogers planned on putting Ziyan into the free breakfast and lunch program, but worried after seeing how kids were often separated in the cafeteria.
"They're separating them by how much their parents are making. It shouldn't be that way. They're teaching them poor and rich," she said.
A certain stigma was attached to the free meal applications, something that didn't go unnoticed by school leaders.
"It affects parent's self-esteem and student's esteem. To the extent that some would not fill it out and then go without. To go without eating, in order to fit in, it's just not a good situation," Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green said.
But new federal funding under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act could change that. One of the requirements for the new funding is that at least 40% of students were in need of the free meal program last year.
Ninety-two percent of KCPS students were. Starting this fall, all 15,000 students in the school district will be able to eat breakfast and lunch for free.
No applications, no income requirements. When kids walk into the cafeteria, they're all welcome to a free meal. Now Rogers hopes her daughter won't have to face a certain hierarchy that comes with the word "free".
"She won't feel like her mom has to make more money for her to have certain kind of friends," Rogers said.
"To have it take place in a way that lets a student and a family to preserve their dignity and respect in this process goes a long way toward helping our families and our students," Dr. Green said.