Nearly 40% of Washington County students eligible for free or reduced lunch

number expected to rise

October 03, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The number of children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals in Washington County Public Schools is expected to rise this year.

And according to the supervisor of food and nutrition services for the school system, some families might not know they qualify.

During the last school year, 38.2 percent of students qualified for free or reduced-price meals, and based on preliminary numbers, Supervisor of Food and Nutrition Services Jeff Proulx expects that number to rise.

The recent economic downturn, job loss and other factors could be contributing to the growing number of local children living in poverty, Proulx said.


"The school system is trying to do whatever it can to assist families in areas where they need it," Proulx said.

Eligibility for the program is based on household size and income. Parents and students do not have to be U.S. citizens in order to participate in the program that was established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Proulx said parents might not know their children are eligible, and they also might be unaware they are required to reapply for the program each year. Pride might also stand in the way of parents and the help they need, he said.

"The families don't want to apply because they don't want to be identified," Proulx said.

He said the program is confidential and students are not identified as receiving a free or reduced-price meal. They give their student identification number and have funds deducted from a debit-like account.

Students qualifying for reduced-price meals pay nothing for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.

Full price is $1 for breakfast and $1.80 for lunch at elementary schools. The typical cost is $2.05 for lunch in the county's middle and high schools.

School officials must report the number of students who qualify for the meal program to the Maryland State Department of Education by Oct. 31, but families can apply throughout the year.

To help families with the application, Food and Nutrition Services is extending its office hours beginning Oct. 20.

For more information

What: Washington County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services office hours for families who need help applying for free and reduced-price meals for their children

When: Oct. 20 to 31. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.

Where: Behind Washington County Technical High School, 50 W. Oak Ridge Drive, Hagerstown.

Details: Call 301-766-2890.

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