Saturday, August 10, 2002

There really is free lunch

Kentucky sets eligibility rules

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Parents should not be intimidated when their children bring home paperwork in the coming weeks to determine which students are eligible for the federal school meals program, state educators say.

        Federal officials revise the guidelines annually for school districts to follow when implementing free and reduced-price meal programs. The Kentucky Department of Education has released income and household size criteria for eligibility in 2002-03.

        “A lot of parents are intimidated by that. They think that there's a lot of paperwork that they need to fill out or maybe they're a little bit leery of providing information to get their kids signed up for this,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

        “They should be reassured that, No. 1, there's not a lot of paperwork to fill out. Also, that the information they provide to the schools is not shared in any way. It is only used to determine which students are eligible.”

        Educators say studies show that students who eat breakfast and lunch attend school more regularly and get better grades.

        Schools soon will be accepting applications from parents or guardians who think their children may qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Family income determines whether children qualify.

        About half of Kentucky's 630,000 public-school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Seventy-six percent of Covington Independent Schools' 4,600 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.


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- There really is free lunch