With the school season resuming for the 2016 – 2017 calendar year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that up to 50% of students are eligible for either free or reduced priced meals. This means that they come from homes in which the total household income is below what the USDA considers to be an adequate level that is needed to feed the entire home, including the student.
While almost one-half of children can benefit from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), there are still millions of households that do not apply. While the exact reason may vary, it is thought that the family is not aware of the program, they do not think they will qualify, or sadly, some children or parents are even embarrassed to apply. One resource to use to get around this stigma is the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), as this will automatically enroll the student for 2016 and subsequent years. Many states will offer solution this for 2016.
The student may feel ashamed that they come from a low income family and feel they may be singled out if they get a free meal. This is compounded by the fact the the student may sometimes even need to go to a different part of the school for their subsidized meal. With the CEP program running, this is a great tool to help get over this barrier. You should never be too prideful to apply, as a healthy meal is critical to the student’s health and educational achievement.
With the 2016 school year starting soon (or maybe the year has already started for some kids) the time to apply is now. Most states, the over 100,000 schools that participate as well as the USDA all strongly encourage applications to be made before the year starts. There are about 20 states in which over 50% of households may qualify, and about 2/3 of those are in the south according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Read more on the school lunch and breakfast program.
However if the parent does not apply them for some reason, they can always submit an application at any point during the school year. Or if the families financial situation changes for the worse later in 2016 (or early 2017), they can always apply then as well.
The reason that as many as 50% of households can apply is that the NSLP program is not strictly based on a household living in poverty. Instead the income cutoffs for 2016 are higher in order to access this benefit. The student may be given a subsidized lunch if their total income is less than 185% of poverty levels. There is also a sliding fee scale used based on the number of kids in the home. So if the household size is bigger, then income cut off levels is even higher.
The states in which most households can meet the qualifications in 2016 are as follows. It is estimated that as many as 71% of families in Mississippi, 68% in New Mexico, 65% in Louisiana, and 61% in Alabama may qualify for help during 2016 per the Southern Education Foundation. As you can see, there is a higher proportion of southern, working poor families that can receive subsidized lunches.
Low cost lunches (or even a breakfast) is available if the family earns less than 185% of the poverty levels, and free meals are given to students who income is less than 130% of poverty levels. This may be equivalent to as high as $45,000 for a family of 4. Since the median household income is estimated to be about $55,000 in 2016, you can see that many household may be close being able to apply.
Be sure to apply now for the 2016 school lunch program. It is very important for your child.