FWCS Reduced and Free Meals on the Rise

By Megan Trent

August 16, 2010 Updated Aug 16, 2010 at 7:33 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Fort Wayne Community School officials say they have more students than ever receiving free or reduced priced meals, and they only expect that number to grow. While the federal guidelines for meal assistance haven't changed from last year, the number of families in need has gone up.

By the end of last year, FWCS officials say a record setting 68% of their students were receiving free or reduced priced meals. Within the next month they'll know if that percentage has changed, but they aren't expecting a turn for the better.

They attribute the increase to a struggling economy and more parents being out of work. Officials say if a student qualifies for free or reduced meals at school, they are probably also in need of resources at home like books or nutritious meals.

Krista Stockman, Public Information Officer for FWCS, says, "That's the challenge when we have so many students living in poverty, that they just don't have the same access to services. We can provide meals for them. That's not a problem. The federal government has this system set up. They reimburse us for the meals. But for some kids, those might be the only good meals they get in a day, so that's a struggle too."

Stockman says this year parents have the option of filling out their free or reduced meal applications in paper form or online through the school's website.

"It really is important that if parents qualify that they submit that documentation and get registered with the program," she says. "Because it really can save the families a lot of money, and that's important when you don't really have a lot of money to spare. We can offer some assistance."

She also says if a family qualifies for meal assistance, they would also qualify for other reduced or waived fees associated with text books, athletics, and more.

According to the USDA's food and nutrition website, a family of four with an annual income of just under $41,000 or less would qualify for reduced meals. For free meals, that same family would need to make less than $28,700 to qualify.

To fill out an application for meal assistance with FWCS, visit this website: http://foodservice.fwcs.k12.in.us/Meal%20Prices.htm

To find out more about federal income guidelines, visit this website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/notices/iegs/iegs.htm

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