MADISON — This year’s income eligibility guidelines for the National School Lunch Program stayed at the same level as last year, ensuring that children whose families are struggling economically have access to low-cost or free meals during the school day.
“This economy has put real pressures on family income, making it all the more important for our children that the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs are available,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “Families can apply at any time for free or reduced-price meals for their children. The federal income guidelines are designed to ensure that hunger doesn’t have to be part of the school day because hungry or undernourished children are less likely to be eager and attentive students.”
During the 2008-09 school year, the state’s public and private schools served more than 130 million meals, snacks, and half pints of milk to children through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition programs. The total includes an increase of approximately 1.5 million more meals served through the School Breakfast Program from the prior year. About half of the meals were served at free or reduced-price for students from economically disadvantaged families. Students qualify for free or reduced-price breakfasts or lunches based on federal income guidelines.
Applications for free or reduced-price school meals are available at each school that participates in the National School Lunch or Breakfast programs and may be submitted at any time during the school year. Parents or guardians complete a form, providing the names and income from all sources of all household members. Families that receive FoodShare, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), or Wisconsin Works (W-2) benefits are eligible for free meals or free milk.
All information is kept confidential, and no child will be discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status.
Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals may also be eligible for benefits through Wisconsin FoodShare and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs. For more information on the WIC program please call 1 (800) 722-2295. To determine family eligibility for FoodShare, please visit https://access.wisconsin.gov/ or call 1 (800) 362-3002.
“School meals are based on nutrition standards set by the federal departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services,” Evers noted. “The menu for school meals is balanced to assure children receive age-appropriate amounts of calories, vitamins, and other nutritional components. Each meal includes a variety of foods to help children learn good eating habits. Common sense, backed by research, shows that students who eat school meals perform better in math, reading, and other subjects; are more attentive in class; and have better behavior in school.”
To support costs associated with its nutrition programs, the USDA purchases commodities from farmers, including those from Wisconsin, to distribute nationwide. Wisconsin schools and institutions participating in child nutrition programs administered by the Department of Public Instruction received approximately $233 million in cash and commodity subsidies from state and federal sources during the 2008-09 school year to run breakfast and lunch programs.
In accordance with federal law and USDA policy, the DPI is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights (Office of Adjudication), 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (voice). TDD users can contact USDA through local relay or the Federal Relay at (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (relay voice users). The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.