Help with meal costs available

Healthy meals lead to healthy minds.

An ever-growing body of research shows that students who eat nutritious meals perform better academically.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function (especially memory), reduced absenteeism and improved mood.”

Meanwhile, according to the National Agricultural Library, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a balanced, nutritious lunch has been proven to aid in childhood physical development, including development of the brain.

For many families though, the cost of providing a healthy breakfast and lunch can be more than they can afford.

Free and reduced lunch programs aim to help those families.

With the school year fast approaching, the USDA has released income eligibility guidelines for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program for the upcoming school year.

Educational institutions use these figures to determine student eligibility for free and reduced price meals and free milk. Those who participated in the program last year, assuming their incomes have not changed, will likely still qualify as the guidelines remain the same from the 2012-13 school year.

Those household receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits are eligible and those enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for women, infants and children (WIC) may also. Other families may qualify based on their income in relation to the federal poverty guideline, which varies by number of family members.

Under current USDA guidelines, those households with income up to 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline for a family of their size will qualify for free meals while those with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty guideline will qualify for reduced price meals.

For students attending the Warren County School District, applications for free or reduced meals are available by filling out an application for the current school year.

The application is provided to students during the first week of school. It is also available in each school’s main office, at the district central office and through the district website at www.wcsdpa.org by clicking on calendars then breakfast and lunch menus. Help filling out the forms can be obtained by contacting Susan Brown at 723-6900, ext. 1001 or Judy Whitmire at 723-6900, ext. 1051.

A new application must be filled out each school year, regardless of previous years status, but only one application is needed per household.

Applications must include students first and last names, students grade levels, school building students are attending, incomes of all households members, the Social Security number of the adult signing the application, current address, a valid telephone number and a nine-digit TANF number if applicable.

Foster, homeless, runaway and migrant children may be able to receive free meals regardless of income.

According to WCSD Director of Business Services Jim Grosch, “The applications and approval are held at very strict confidential levels. Other kids will not know who does or does not receive free or reduced lunches.”