Eligibility expands for free school meals


More Big island families that have been on the margins of eligibility for free school meals will be able to take advantage of the program this school year.

A family of four can earn $35,659 and still qualify for free meals, under the updated criteria. The income limit for free meals for a family of four has been set at $50,746. The increases are $442 and $629, respectively, from last year’s levels.

Application forms and a letter from the state Department of Education were slated to be sent out to homes this past week. The meals are partially funded by the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

Sixty-five percent of the island’s students qualified for the subsidized meals in 2012, according to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation released this past spring. Statewide, just over half of students qualify.

For a family of two, the new income limit for free lunches is $23,517. A family of three may earn $29,588, and the limit for a family of five is $41,730. For a family of six — $47,801, a family of seven — $53,872 and a family of eight — $59,943.

The income limit for reduced-price meals is as follows: family of two — $33,567, family of three — $42,106, family of five — $59,385, family of six — $68,025, family of seven — $76,664, family of eight — $85,304.

Households should fill out one application and return it to the school where the child is enrolled, or complete an online application at ezmealapp.com.

Foster children may also be eligible for the benefits, and households with such children should contact their school for more information, according to the education department.

The DOE School Food Services Branch facilitates meals for some 100,000 students and school staff at 265 schools around the state, according to a 2012 internal audit of the branch.

 

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