COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Earlier this year state lawmakers passed legislation that established the Child Food and Nutrition Services Study Committee.

The panel has been tasked with studying whether or not some of the nutrition programs administered by the state Department of Education for students should be moved to the state Department of Agriculture.

The panel is also studying universal free school meals and increasing work with local farmers.

This week, the committee was briefed for nearly three hours by the state Department of Education officials about the various programs and how they work.

Officials say about two-thirds of K-12 students in South Carolina public schools qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Deputy Superintendent Virgie Chambers spoke to lawmakers about a program schools can opt-in to provide free meals to all students.

Chambers told lawmakers the number of schools participating in the federal Community Eligibility Program doubled this year. “This increase became available because of our use of Medicaid data. Last year was the first year we started using Medicaid data as a match. So it increased the number of students who were eligible,” Chambers said.

The committee is expected to meet in September and take a more comprehensive look at universal free school meals. Their recommendations for the rest of the General Assembly are due before lawmakers return to Columbia in January.