Will budget cuts affect free and reduced lunches for students?

Dougherty County Schools are leaning more toward a healthy lunch plan for all students / Ashley Knight

Parents can almost hear the distant sound of ringing bells, calling students back to the classroom. But perhaps it's what goes on in the cafeteria that may affect what goes on in the classroom. 80% of students in Dougherty County take advantage of free and reduced meals . But could budget cuts soon do away with the program? Finance Director Robert Lloyd says no.

"We're subsidized by the federal government for the free and reduced meal," says Lloyd.

And the program includes more than just lunch.

"Breakfast is the universal free breakfast program, so everyone's entitled, to the school system whether they have an income factor or not, to a free breakfast."

Lloyd adds the debt ceiling issue will not affect the program either. The school system is reimbursed the money it spends on the meals, and to keep costs down, they use foods that are in season.

"We actually get a surplus every year cause we're effective and efficient in producing the meals of a lower cost than what we get reimbursed for."

For the past few years, the Dougherty County School System has been leaning toward more healthy meals for students. But Lloyd remembers a time when snacks weren't as green as they are today.

"I can remember going for breakfast at Southside eight years ago, seven years ago, before Vanessa got here and it was bacon swimming in grease. And egg swimming in grease, scrambled egg."

"Childhood obesity, we are in the fight. We have started with whole grains, low fat dairy, low fat cheese products," says Vanessa Hayes, Director of Nutritional Services.

President Obama actually signed into law this year the Hunger Free Children's Act, which allows schools get even more money through the USDA.

"Because he knows to eat better, to cook better, that food is more expensive. The whole grains, the fresh fruit," says Hayes.

And Hayes hopes this will someday lead to every child getting a free meal.

"Because when you get a free education, you should get a free lunch with that."

A fully paid lunch is $1.50, reduced lunches are 40 cents. To apply, click here .