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Free and reduced lunches

PRINCETON – The Illinois State Board of Education recently released its guidelines for the free and reduced lunch program for the upcoming school year.

According to a press release issued by the state board of education, the state has seen an increase in children eligible for free and reduced lunch.

At DePue Unit School District, Superintendent Randy Otto confirmed about 50 percent of the students in his district are now eligible for waivers to receive free or reduced lunches.

He said the number has recently increased, adding that increase comes from the consistently changing guidelines in the lunch program.

Otto said time will only tell if the increased number of students qualifying for the program will affect the district’s budget. He said theoretically speaking, the district will see a change if the number of students continues to increase because it decreases the amount of revenue coming in from lunch fees.

At Ohio Community Consolidated School District, Superintendent Sharon Sweger said last year’s records showed about 50 percent of grade school students and 42 percent of high school students qualified for the program.

Sweger said she has also seen an increase in the number of qualified students for the program in the last three years, which is how long the district has offered the free or reduced lunch program. Sweger said once the district was able to offer the program, more families began to come forward and self identify that they qualified.

According to the state board of education’s press release, from 2003 to 2012, students statewide eligible for free or reduced lunches increased from 42.7 percent to 53.6 percent, meaning about 1 million students in public and private schools now qualify for the program.

“We know that more children across the state are living in families that are struggling to make ends meet,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “The federal breakfast and lunch program gives these students a fighting chance with nutritionally-balanced meals, so they can focus on school and learning.”

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To view the guidelines or apply for the free and reduced meal program...

To view the new set of guidelines for the free and reduced meal program, visit the Illinois State Board of Education website, which will provide an income scale that breaks down household size and annual and monthly income necessary to qualify for either reduced or free meal.

Application forms are being sent to homes with a letter to parents or guardians. To apply for free or reduced-price meal services, households must complete the application, sign it and return it to the school. Additional copies of the application are available at the school. An application which does not contain all the required information cannot be processed and approved by the school.

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