|For Immediate Release|
|Friday, September 29, 1995|
Eligibility Guidelines Set for Free or Reduced Price Meals and Free Milk
Malden - Massachusetts Education Commissioner Robert V. Antonucci today announced the family income eligibility guidelines for the 1995-1996 school year milk and meals programs for Massachusetts students, in which 200,000 children receive free or reduced price breakfasts or lunches and another 240,000 purchase full-priced meals every day of the school year.
The milk and meals benefits are intended for those Massachusetts children who are most in need and who live in households whose incomes fall under categories based on income and family size criteria specified by the federal government.
Schools and child care centers participating in the following programs will provide free milk or reduced price or free meals: National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Commodity Distribution, Commodity School, Child and Adult Care and Summer Food Service Programs.
Children from households whose incomes are at or below the levels shown in the accompanying chart are eligible for free or reduced price meals or free milk. Foster children who are the legal responsibility of a welfare agency or court may also be eligible for benefits regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Eligibility for a foster child is based on the child's income.
Commenting on the importance of the school meals and milk program, Commissioner Antonucci stated, "All children have a better chance at learning if they are eating right. When they know they can count on their meals regularly, at the same place every day, they can put more of their energy into learning and growing."
To apply for free and reduced price meals or free milk, households must fill out an application form and return it to their local school or child care center. More than 150,000 forms are being distributed to households with a letter informing parents of the availability of free and reduced price meals or free milk for their children. Applications are also available at the office in each school, they may be submitted anytime during the year, and may be verified by program officials at any time during the year. The information provided by households will only be used for the purpose of determining eligibility and verification of data.
New this year statewide is the Direct Certification Process, begun in some schools last year. This innovation was designed by the Department of Education and the Department of Transitional Assistance to streamline eligibility certification and reduce bureaucracy. All children from households receiving food stamps or AFDC benefits are eligible. If the child has received a Meal Benefit Certificate from the Department of Transitional Assistance, the parent does not have to complete the application for free meals, but only needs to sign the certificate and return it to the child's school. If the child does not receive a Meal Benefit Certificate, and the parent does receive food stamps or AFDC benefits, an application for free meals must be completed.
In order to determine children's eligibility for free and reduced price benefits, households receiving food stamps or AFDC benefits need only to list their children's names, food stamp or AFDC case number, and an adult household member must sign the application. Households that do not have a food stamp or AFDC case number must list the names of all household members, the amount and source of the income received by each household member, and the social security number of the adult household member who signs the application. If he or she does not possess a social security number, "none" must be indicated on the application.
Under the provisions of the free and reduced price policy, applications will be reviewed and eligibility will be determined. Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the ruling may choose to informally discuss the decision, or they may make a formal appeal for a hearing on the decision, either orally or in writing.
Households approved based on a food stamp or AFDC eligibility must report when the household no longer receives these benefits. Other households approved for benefits based on income information must report increases in household income of over $50.00 per month or $600.00 per year and decreases in household size. Also, if a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household adult should contact the school. Such changes may make the children eligible for benefits if the household's income falls to or below the levels shown above.
All meals served must meet patterns established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, if a child has been determined by a doctor to be handicapped and the handicap would prevent the child from eating the regular school meal, the school will make substitutions prescribed by the doctor. If a substitution is needed, there will be no extra charge for the meal.
Income Eligibility Guidelines
(Effective July 1, 1995 - June 30, 1996)
| ||Free Meals||Reduced Price Meals|
|Family Size||Year||Month ||Week||Year||Month||Week|
|4||19,695||1,642||379||28,028|| 2,336|| 539|
|7||29,679||2,474||571||42,236||3,520 ||813 |
|For each |
|$3,328|| +278||+64||4,736|| +395||+92|
Child feeding programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will not discriminate against any child because of race, color, sex, national origin, age or handicap. If any household member believes he or she has been discriminated against, a letter should be sent immediately to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.