LPS urges families to sign up for free and reduced meal program

LPS urges families to sign up for free and reduced meal program
LPS urges families to sign up for free and reduced meal program(Ellis Wiltsey)
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 9:24 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lincoln Public Schools students are headed back to class in less than a month, meaning back-to-school prep is underway. The district is reminding parents that free and reduced meals are going back to normal after a break during the pandemic.

For the last school year, 43% of LPS students were enrolled in the free and reduced meal program, but didn’t necessarily need to be because meals were free for all under a pandemic relief program. That program was recently allowed to expire, a change that may leave some families feeling more pressure.

“We want to make sure those families that might need that extra benefit of meals, either at that free or reduced rate, that they take about 10 minutes or so to fill out the application,” said Andrew Ashelford, the district’s Director of Nutrition Services.

The district is returning to its free and reduced meal program this fall. That program is broken down into three categories that depend on a few factors like household size and income.

According to the Department of Education, households making less than 130% of the poverty line qualify for free meals. The next level, between 130% and 185% of the poverty line, qualifies for a discounted price, which is about 35 cents a meal.

“Based on income guidelines so family size, obviously the bigger the family you are that’s a contributing factor and also income so those two variables are the main driving force and each year it kind of changes based on the poverty guidelines,” Ashelford said.

This comes as the cost at places like the grocery store continues to rise. According to the Consumer Price Index, grocery store prices showed a 12.2% increase over the last year.

Earlier this month, the Center for People in Need told 10/11 NOW they had 138 more families receive food from their service center than the previous month, that included hundreds of new children.

LPS said you can apply for the program year-round, but doing it before the school year starts can save you from unexpected costs later.

“If the family waits until school starts and they maybe wait until September or October, they might accrue balances and that can add up quickly and then the family would be responsible for those balances up until their status changed,” Ashelford said.

Those applications are already available for the upcoming school year on the district’s website.

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