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Free And Reduced Price School Lunches

September 27, 2004, 4:43 PM by DeeAnn Tiede

Free And Reduced Price School Lunches

Though reasonably priced at between $1.50 and $2.00, some KELOLAND families still can't afford to pay for school lunches.

The federal government recognizes that and offers free and reduced prices lunches to children who meet income guidelines. Yet, a surprising number of students who are eligible aren't taking advantage of the savings.

School lunches are sometimes the only well-balanced meal students get during the day, but many more would qualify for free and reduced priced lunches than are getting them.

When lunch time rolls around at Whittier middle school - stand back. Hungry students crowd the cafeteria to refuel their bodies for a busy afternoon of classes. They can chose between six meals, all packed with healthy options like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Tori Wittstruck, a child nutrition manager, said, "We serve about 913 lunches a day."

Half of the students who eat lunch at Whittier everyday qualify for the federally funded free and reduced price lunch program, but about half of "those" still haven't filled out the necessary paperwork this year. The process is simple.

Tori Wittstruck says, "All you need is the household income. List everybody in the household and how much each person makes."

A family of four can earn up to $2,907 dollars a month to qualify for the reduced price meals. That's 40 cents for lunch, compared to the same meal for a $1.50 at elementary and a $1.70 at secondary schools.

Do the math and full priced meals for about a month cost about $34, reduced priced cost about $8, and then there are those who qualify for free meals. And don't pay a dime.

Parents give their income information on the honor system, but schools do conduct random income checks throughout the year. But your family can't save, if you don't apply.

Tori Wittstruck says, "Every year these applications need to be turned in. It's not something that goes you turn one in and it goes through their whole school years. Every single year at this time we have to have one turned in."

And it only takes a matter of minutes to be accepted in the program.

Tori Wittstruck says, "We just hope people see that there's a real need out there and these kids need to turn them in as quickly as possible."

Seventeen-million American children qualify to receive free and reduced priced lunches. Even if students can't pay and haven't applied for the reduced priced lunches, they're never denied a meal. Instead, they're offered a peanut butter sandwich.

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