Mineral County students returned home from school this week with application forms for free and reduced-price meals. Parents need to review the materials and apply for this critical benefit.
Numerous studies have documented a strong connection between proper nutrition and children's success in school. A child with an empty stomach is not thinking about reading, writing or arithmetic, but rather the next meal, or the last one he or she missed.
Hunger exists in this day and age. Hunger exists in our community.
It also exists in our schools, but it doesn't have to.
Thanks to the federally funded free and reduced meal program, any family struggling with low income should be able to qualify for the assistance, so that their children will not go hungry through the school day.
The program is income-based, and the application requires information about members of the household and how much income is earned by those who work. No documentation is required, although school officials may ask for written proof.
A family of four qualifies for free meals if its gross monthly income – before taxes and other deductions – is $2,389 or less. The same family qualifies for reduced-price if its monthly income is less than $3,400. A two-person household qualifies for free meals with monthly gross income of $1,579 or less, and for reduced prices with monthly income of $2,247 or less.
If a family receives Food Stamps, the children are automatically eligible for free meals.
While the application requires some work, it is worth the effort.
Those who qualify for free meals can rest assured that their children are receiving nutritious, well-balanced meals, twice a day if they eat breakfast at school The reduced price benefit offers significant savings itself, with a $1 breakfast costing just 30 cents, and the school system's $1.40 lunch reduced to 40 cents.
Currently about 55 percent of Mineral County students qualify for free or reduced meals, and they are not identified at school in any way. Children pass through the meal lines like other students, with only the cafeteria worker at the checkout aware that they receive the benefit.
This is a program that works, for our schools, our families and, most importantly, our children.
For more information on the free and reduced meal program, contact Becky Schneider, school nutrition program director, at 304-788-4200 x-112.