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Free and reduced price meals eligibility guidelines for students announced

August 21, 2011
FROM: Iowa Department of Education
TAMA NEWS-HERALD- DES MOINES- The policy for free and reduced-price school meals for children who are unable to pay the full price of meals has been released by the Iowa Department of Education's Bureau of Nutrition, Health and Transportation Services.

The meals are served through the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and the Afterschool Care Snack Program.

State and local officials have adopted family size and income criteria for determining eligibility (please see chart far below).

Households may apply for free or reduced-price meal benefits one of four ways:

* Students from households whose income is at or below the levels shown in the chart below are eligible for reduced-price meals or for free meals. All children in a household may be listed on one application, which then can be returned to any one of the children's schools.

* Students from Food Assistance households and children who receive benefits under the Family Investment Program (FIP) are eligible for free meals. Most children from Food Assistance and FIP households will qualify for free meals automatically. These households will be notified of benefits in letters from their children's schools. Households that receive a letter from the school district need to do nothing more to ensure their children receive free meals.

* Some Food Assistance and FIP households will receive letters from the Department of Human Services (DHS). Children listed in the letters will qualify for free meals, but parents must first take these letters to the children's schools.

* Food Assistance or FIP households that receive benefits but do not receive a letter from DHS must apply for free school meals on behalf of their children.

Only complete applications will be approved by schools. Applications may be submitted at any time during the year. If a family member becomes unemployed, the family should contact the school to complete an application.

In certain cases, foster children are eligible for these benefits. Families with foster children can find instructions on the application form. Participants in the Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals based on a completed application.

Households with children who are enrolled in the Head Start/Even Start Program or the Migrant Education Program or who are considered homeless or runaway by the school district's homeless liaison should contact the school for assistance with benefits. Individuals who are dissatisfied with the ruling by school officials can appeal orally or in writing to the school's designated hearing official. The policy statement on file at the school contains an outline of the hearing procedure. School officials may verify the information in the application and that deliberate misrepresentation of information may subject the applicant to prosecution under applicable state and federal criminal statutes. Households should contact their local schools for more information.

Non-discrimination statement: This explains what to do if you believe you have been treated unfairly. In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to: USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C., 20250-9410, or call (866) 632-9992. Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Iowa non-discrimination notice: It is the policy of this CNP provider not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or religion in its programs, activities, or employment practices as required by the Iowa Code section 216.7 and 216.9. Questions or grievances related to compliance with this policy can be directed to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, Grimes State Office Building, 400 E. 14th St., Des Moines, IA 50319-1004; call (515) 281-4121 or (800) 457-4416 or go to: www.state.ia.us/government/crc/index.html.

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