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Meal program guidelines change

July 05, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The eligibility guidelines to qualify for free and reduced-price meals in Washington County Public Schools have changed.

The income requirements increased slightly, as they do each year, according to Gary Dodds, supervisor of food and nutrition services for the school system. The increase is to accommodate inflation, and Dodds said it should not affect the number of students who qualify for meal assistance.

Dodds said about 36 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The guidelines are set by the federal government and adopted by the Maryland State Department of Education, according to state officials.

Eligible students may eat school meals for free or at a reduced cost of 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.

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The regular price for school lunches in Washington County increased in April to $1.80 for elementary lunch and $2.05 for secondary lunch. Each was a 10-cent increase.

According to information released by the state department, household size and income are the most common ways to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price meals.

Under the new guidelines, a child from a family of two is eligible for free meals if the household's income is less than $13,273 annually, and for reduced-price meals if it is less than $25,327, state officials said. A child from a family of three is eligible for free meals if the household's income is $22,321 or less, and for reduced-price meals if it is less than $38,203.

Officials said a child from a family of four qualifies for free school meals if the household's income is less than $26,845. If the family's income is less than $38,203, the child qualifies for reduced-price meals.

For each additional family member, add $4,524 to the maximum income allowed to qualify for free meals, and $6,438 to the amount for reduced-price meals, state officials said.

"For us, it doesn't really increase our free and reduced-price (meals) numbers," Dodds said. "The same people who were eligible last year will be eligible this year, with a few variations. This doesn't play a big part in the increase of the free and reduced numbers."

State officials said schools will notify parents/guardians that their children qualify for free or reduced-price meals.




By the numbers



The percentage of Washington County Public Schools students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals:

· 2000-01 - 27.5

· 2001-02 - 30.6

· 2002-03 - 31.3

· 2003-04 - 32.8

· 2004-05 - 34.5

· 2005-06 - 35

· 2006-07 - 36

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