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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Families encouraged to fill out free lunch form

Monday, September 16, 2013

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

Franklin County schools are encouraging families who feel they may be eligible for free or reduced lunches for their children, to fill out the required form.

"Parents are not filling out the forms for free and reduced lunches," said Dr. Mark Church, school superintendent. "There are a lot of families in the county who are eligible, but may not be aware of that."

Those families who may not utilize the National School Lunch Program should still fill out the form to determine eligibility, Church said.

"This program could save a family a lot of money throughout the course of a year," he said. "For example, a family of four with two working parents who make $43,000 a year or less, would be eligible for free or reduced lunches for their children."

The National School Lunch Program is a federally-assisted meal program, operating in over 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions.

School districts and independent schools that choose to take part in the lunch program get cash subsidies and foods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for each meal they serve. In return, they must serve lunches that meet federal requirements, and they must offer free or reduced price lunches to eligible children.

The USDA website states that studies show healthy lunches are a valuable tool in the learning process.

The relationship between inadequate nutrition and behavior and ability to learn is substantiated by scientific studies, according to the website.

Each school in Franklin County has a copy of the required form for parents to fill out, as well as a copy of the policy for providing free or reduced price meals for children served under the National School Lunch Program.

"Food services will be happy to help with filling out forms," said Church. "We are more than willing to help families with forms and it all remains confidential."

Household size and income are used to determine eligibility for free or reduced price meal benefits. Children who are members of households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program) or who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may be automatically eligible for free meals. Children who are homeless, migrant or runaways may also be automatically eligible for free meals.

Foster children, who are the legal responsibility of a welfare agency or court, are eligible for free meals, regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Children who are members of households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced-priced meals based on the household's income.

To apply for free or reduced price meals, households must only fill out one application and return it to any school cafeteria or to Franklin County's food services department.

"Applications may be submitted at any time during the school year," said Church.

The information households provide on the application will be used for determining eligibility and verification of data. An application for free or reduced price meals cannot be approved unless it is complete.

The prices for student lunches and breakfasts in Franklin County schools increased this year because of new federal requirements and escalating gasoline and food prices, said Chuck Hutto, director of school food services.

The lunch price for students in elementary schools increased from $1.85 to $1.95.

In the middle and high schools, the price for a student lunch increased from $2.15 to $2.25.

The price of breakfast increased from $1.15 to $1.25 in both elementary and secondary schools.

The reduced price of 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch for all students remained the same, Hutto said. The school system operates the largest cafeteria and food services program in the county, serving breakfast and lunch to approximately 7,150 students daily.

The county's school food service program continues to buy local produce as much as possible, Hutto added.

 
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