With schools now back in full swing, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction wants to make sure children don’t go hungry during classes.
On Tuesday the department explained the guidelines for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017-18 free and reduced-price meal programs.
“Research indicates children who are hungry or poorly nourished have difficulty learning and do not perform as well in the classroom as students who are well-nourished,” said Lynn Harvey, section chief for the department’s School Nutrition Services.
“Providing healthy, appealing meals and snacks at school help ensure that students can focus on academics.”
Local school districts also try to help ensure kids have help at home, too.
Area businesses have donated to this cause. Some through cash donations. Three city Food Lion stores have delivered food items directly to schools: store #1347 on U.S. 52, store #288 on West Pine Street, and #441 on West Lebanon Street.
First Baptist Church held a fundraiser for the city school’s Hungry Bears backpack program. The Souper Bowl fundraiser resulted in a check to the school system for $1,581.
The Rock the Runway show and the Mayberry Cool Cars & Rods Cruise-In recently are a couple of other examples of events that donated proceeds to these backpack programs.
The USDA says the size of a household and the family income are used to determine a student’s eligibility for free or reduced meals.
Those in the military must include food and clothing allowances as income, but combat pay does not apply.
Those who have already qualified for Food and Nutrition Services (previously known as the food stamps program) or Cash Assistance have already proven their eligibility and are automatically eligible, pending verification.
The same is true of children who are entering schools out of a federally funded Head Start program (eligible for children up to age five from low-income families).
Foster children who are the legal responsibility of a social services agency or court are automatically entered, regardless of the income of the households that take in the children.
Others who think they might be eligible can pick up an application at the office of their children’s schools. Complete the form and return it to the school. Only one application is needed per household for all the students in the house.
This application must include the names of all household members, the amount and source of those members’ income, and the last four digits of the social security number of the adult member who signs the form. If the head of the household doesn’t have a social security number, he or she must indicate that the number is not available.
All applications are subject to verification and reverification of income at any time during the school year.
For those who qualify for reduced meal prices, the USDA said this year’s costs are 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. However, DPI notes that in this state there is “a special provision … that enables many students to receive all or a portion of reduced-priced breakfast meals at no cost to the household.”
If household income changes, such as a family member having to take a job that pays less, then the family can submit a new application during the school year.
The state department said that further information could be available through each school district’s school nutrition administrator.