Monday is public schools’ deadline for free, reduced meals

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 13, 2009

Each school day, more than 6,000 Vicksburg students line up for free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches in local public school cafeterias.

It’s good for the students, and administrators want it to continue for everyone who’s eligible, said child nutrition director Gail Kavanaugh.

Monday is the deadline to get annual applications for the free and reduced-price meals in to school offices, and families who have not returned forms must do so or be dropped from the program.

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School food service programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, having begun as a means for farmers and food processors to sell excess supply at deep discounts.

Meals can be purchased at “full price,” at a reduced price or provided at no charge. A family of four, for example, with household income of $28,665 or less qualifies for free meals, or $40,793 for reduced-price meals.

About 70 percent of Vicksburg’s public school students enrolled in free or reduced meal programs last year, Kavanaugh said. The district is looking at a possible 74 percent eligibility this year, out of an official enrollment of 8,898 public school students.

“That’s a big jump,” Kavanaugh said. “We anticipated a rise because of the state of the economy and the loss of jobs in our area.”

Classes began more than a month ago and students enrolled last year in the meal program were automatically carried forward when the school year began, Kavanaugh said, but new applications are required each year.

“We want parents to respond,” she added. Just one application is needed to cover all school children in the family.

Notices and application forms have been sent home by way of the students. In addition, automated phone calls have been placed and notices have been mailed to the 300 or so families eligible in the past who have not signed up for this year.

In recent years, the number of students eligible for free and reduced meals has grown steadily at the rate of about 1 percent annually.

Households must report income information or provide a Supplemental Assistance Program or other applicable program case number. Other information required includes names of all household members.

The USDA runs verification checks on a sampling of applications, Kavanaugh said, to ensure compliance with income guidelines. “If it’s over the allowable amount (families) are taken off the program,” she said.

On the other hand, if a family member becomes unemployed or the family size increases after Monday’s deadline passes without a family applying, a parent or guardian is encouraged to contact the school.

“Families can apply at any time during the year,” Kavanaugh said.


At a glance

VWSD meal prices:


• 25 cents reduced

• 75 cents for elementary and intermediate students

• $1 junior high and high school

• $2 adult (non-student)


• 40 cents reduced

• $2.25 for all other students regardless of grade level

• $3 adult (non-student)

For more information on the school nutrition program, including menus, nutrition links and online prepayments, visit


Contact Pamela Hitchins at