Do you qualify for a school meal?

Friday, December 12, 2008

In view of the current economic situation, Larissa Delk, Food Service Supervisor for the Marshall County schools, wants parents to know that it's possible for their children to get free or reduced-price school meals.

"I think some people are worried about others knowing they have applied for meal benefits and worry about the confidentiality of the program," wrote Delk in an e-mail. "I want to put them at ease and assure them that confidentiality is one of our top priorities and only a very select few have access to the information."

Eligibility guidelines are based on household size and income in a policy announced annually by the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA's school meals programs help ensure all students have access to a nutritious diet.

"Research indicates that eating habits affect student performance and health," said Acting Education Commissioner Tim Webb. "Simply stated, children who are hungry have difficulty learning. In today's fast-paced world, school meals offer your children a simple affordable solution for a nutritious breakfast and a nutritious lunch."

Here are some basic questions and answers about free and reduced-price meals.

If I do not qualify now, may I apply later?

Yes. You may apply at any time during the school year if your household size goes up, income goes down, or if you start getting Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or other benefits. If you lose your job, your children may be able to get free or reduced-price meals.

Do I need to fill out an application for each of my children?

No, you only need one application for each household. A household includes everyone living there, related or not.

Do I need to fill out an application if my children are receiving food stamps or Families First?

No. If your household receives assistance under the Food Stamp program or the TANF program, your children will be notified of their eligibility and they will be provided free meals unless you notify the school that you choose to decline benefits.

Who can get free meals?

Children whose families get food stamps or TANF and most foster children, regardless of income.

Children whose household income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines chart.

Who can get reduced-price meals?

Children whose total household income is within the reduced-price limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines chart can get low-cost meals.

If I get WIC (the special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children), can my children get free meals?

Your children MAY be eligible for free or reduced-price meals, but you need to fill out an application.

Will the information I give be checked?

Yes, you may be asked to send written proof.

May I apply if someone in my household is not a U. S. citizen?

Yes. You or your children do not have to be U. S. citizens to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

How will my children be treated if they receive free or reduced-price meal benefits?

Children receiving free or reduced-price meals are treated the same as children who pay for their meals. The USDA does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

I think my children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. What is my first step here in Marshall County?

You can get an application from the Central Office at 700 Jones Circle, Lewisburg, or from your child's school. If you have more questions, call Larissa Delk at 359-1581 ext. 28, or e-mail her at HYPERLINK ""