More expected to apply for school lunch benefits

Posted Aug. 26, 2008, at 11:03 p.m.

More expected to apply for school lunch benefits

BY WALTER GRIFFIN

OF THE NEWS STAFF

AUGUSTA, Maine – Family size and income guidelines for free and reduced-price meals and for free milk in Maine schools for the 2008-09 school year have been announced by Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron based on information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This school year, students from families whose annual income is equal to or less than the federal income guidelines will be eligible for free or reduced-price meals or free milk. The program is available for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Income guidelines are slightly higher than last year’s levels, and Department of Education Child Nutrition Services specialist Walter Beesley predicted that more students will enroll in the program this year. Beesley said that the slumping economy would likely cause an increase in the number of eligible families.

“I expect to see an increase in free and reduced [-price lunch] this year,” he said Tuesday. “We’re already seeing an increase in our summer programs this year. In some of the cities, we’ve seen an increase of 100 percent in some cases.”

Under the new guidelines, for a family of two, including adults, an annual income of $18,200 makes the student eligible for free meals or free milk, while an income of $19,240 makes the student eligible for reduced-price meals.

For a family of three, the income level is $22,880 for free milk and meals, $32,560 for reduced-price meals.

For a family of four, the income level is $27,560 for free milk and meals, $39,220 for reduced-price meals.

For a family of five, the income level is $32,240 for milk and meals, $45,880 for reduced-price meals.

For a family of six, the income level is $36,920 for milk and meals, $52,540 for reduced-price meals. For each additional family member, add $4,680 in annual income for free milk and meals, $6,660 for reduced-price meals.

Applications will be sent home with each Maine schoolchild on the first day of school as part of a letter describing the nutrition programs offered by the school. Information provided on the application to schools is confidential.

In certain cases, foster children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals or free milk. For assistance in completing the application for a foster child, the foster parent should contact the school.

Applications may be completed and sent to a child’s school at any time during the school year.

Parents filing an application with the school will be notified of the outcome of their application for eligibility. If a family is dissatisfied with the decision of the school official, the parent may make a request — either orally or in writing — to the superintendent of schools or administrator of the private school for a hearing to appeal the decision.

Each school has copies of the written hearing procedure that may be reviewed by any interested party. Federal and state rules prevent discrimination because of a child’s race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. Anyone who believes that he has been discriminated against should contact Department of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron or write to the Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.

For further information, contact Walter Beesley, Child Nutrition Services, Maine Department of Education, 23 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0023, by telephone at 624-6875, or e-mail walter.beesley@maine.gov.

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