Why the school lunch program should be the first call for K-12 families in financial distress
If you have a child in the K-12 bracket, you’ve certainly heard of the federal school lunch program.
But did you know that this is one of the first programs you should look into if you hit financial stresses?
One reason is the income eligibility brackets. The cutoff for reduced-price lunches is such that many working poor families qualify for that program, even if they make too much money for other public or charity assistance programs.
Here is the eligibility chart for 2013-14 for the 48 contiguous states, including Michigan. The brackets are set at 185 percent of federal poverty guidelines for reduced prices and 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines for free meals.
Reduced-price meals – annual income
- 1 person: $21,257.
- 2 people: $28,694.
- 3 people: $36,131.
- 4 people: $43,568.
- 5 people: $51,005.
- 6 people: $58,442.
- 7 people: $68,879.
- 8 people: $73,316.
Free meals – annual income
- 1 person: $14,937.
- 2 people: $20,163.
- 3 people: $25,389.
- 4 people: $30,615.
- 5 people: $35,841.
- 6 people: $41,067.
- 7 people: $46,293.
- 8 people: $51,519.
In addition, the financial difference in paying the “reduced cost” rate of 40 cents a lunch is amazing when you compare it to the $1.85 to $2.85 a lunch that public schools in Monroe County MI announced for the 2013-14 academic year. That 40 cents also beats out the price point of many brown bag lunches when you add the cost of beverages, desserts or side dishes to the cost of a sandwich.
In addition, I am aware of situations in which a student’s participation in the school lunch program means automatic or a quick approval for other grants and financial assistance. The examples include reduced-price home Internet connections.
The additional reason is that there an quick and easy process to apply for the school lunch program. The paperwork does need to be updated at the start of every school year, but you don’t have to wait for “open enrollment” season as with other programs. If you qualify mid-year because of a change in family circumstances, go ahead and file.
In fact, officials at many participating schools have realized there are incentives to getting as many eligible families to sign up as possible.
That incentive up goes beyond helping children better able to focus on their classwork, although that result alone can make a difference for those students and their classmates. There also are various discounts, grants and funding available to districts or schools whose criteria is based on the percentage of students who are considered low income.
Marketplace has that explanation at How free lunches pay off for schools.