More than half of Bartow kids get help with school meals
by Cheree Dye
Aug 06, 2014 | 1748 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Across the state, 62 percent of Georgia Pre-K through 12th-graders are eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free and reduced-price meals. In Bartow County, the average closely mirrors that of the state, at 61 percent of county students participating in the program. Considering Bartow County’s student population in 2014 reached 13,936, more than 8,500 children took part.

Qualifications for the program are based on the gross household income of all members and the number of individuals living within the home.

Pam Blakeney, director of nutrition for Bartow County Schools, said those not eligible for the program pay $1.10 for elementary school breakfast and $1.35 at the middle and high schools. The reduced-price breakfast costs parents 30 cents. Lunch prices at the elementary level are $2.10 per day, while middle and high school students pay $2.35. However, the adjusted price for program participants is 40 cents.

The Georgia Department of Education announced the 2014-15 U.S.D.A. policy for free and reduced-price meals for children in Georgia’s schools.

“It is important to provide our students with healthy, nutritious meals to help improve their chances of success and increase their learning opportunities,” School Nutrition Director Nancy Rice said. “Research indicates that eating habits affect learning. We want to ensure all our children are well nourished and ready to learn.”

For a four-member household, the income limit for free meals is $31,005, while the limit for reduced-priced lunch is $31,006 to $44,123.

To apply, parents or guardians can complete a form sent from the school. Only one application is necessary for all students within the household.

A number of situations qualify students for free meals. All children in households receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP — or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — TANF — are eligible regardless of the household income. Also, children can receive free meals if their household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines, which are listed below. Foster children who are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for the meals at no cost. Additionally, children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway or migrant qualify.

The other option available through the federal program is reduced-price meals. Children qualify if the household is within the reduced-price limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Chart listed below.

A new application is required each school year. Applications completed last year were only valid for the 2013-14 school year and for the first few days of this 2014-15 school year. If a family’s financial circumstance changes during the school year, parents are allowed to apply again.

Neither parents nor children are required to be U.S. citizens to participate.

The application must include all people living in a household who share income and expenses.

Military families are required to include any off-base housing allowance as income. However, if housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative it is not necessary to list. Also, combat pay that is received in addition to basic pay is required to be included in income.

The Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines are listed below in order of number of individuals in the household, income limit for free meals and income limit for reduced-price meals:

Size Free Reduced-price

1 $15,171 $15,172 - $21,590

2 $20,449 $20,450 - $29,101

3 $25,727 $25,728 - $36,612

4 $31,005 $31,006 - $44,123

5 $36,283 $36,284 - $51,634

6 $41,561 $41,562 - $59,145

Cartersville City Schools could not be reached for comment on the number of students within the system on free and reduced-price lunch.