Education

See if your family qualifies for free food

Workers Diane Josefik, left, and Wendy Grannis, right, joke around with students as they orders at Philipsburg-Osceola Elementary School.
Workers Diane Josefik, left, and Wendy Grannis, right, joke around with students as they orders at Philipsburg-Osceola Elementary School.

New guidelines show which local students will be eligible for free or reduced lunches.

The state Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday the federal income eligibility guidelines for the 2016-17 school year.

A report from PDE said school districts and other institutions use federal guidelines to determine eligibility for the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Milk Program for Children, the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.

Eligibility is tabulated using poverty guidelines. Families with income falling below 130 percent of the poverty guideline are eligible for free lunches, and families with income falling below 185 percent of the poverty guideline are eligible for reduced lunches. For example, a family of five making less than $36,972 annually would be eligible for a free lunch and the same family making more than that but less than $52,614 would qualify for a reduced lunch.

“Food insecurity impacts communities across the commonwealth,” state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said in a press release. “Without proper nutrition, a student’s health, focus and academic performance may decline. The free and reduced lunch, and other nutrition programs improve at-risk students’ access to healthy meals, and overall health and well-being.”

By the numbers

At Bald Eagle Area, 36.73 percent of students were in the free and reduced lunch program last school year, district spokeswoman Rose Hoover said.

About 450 students (about 32 percent) were eligible for free meals and 39 students (about 3 percent) were eligible for reduced meals in 2015-16 at Penns Valley Area, spokesman Nate Althouse said.

The district had 1,416 total students last school year.

At Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District, 49 percent of the student population was eligible last year for the program, Superintendent Gregg Paladina said.

More than 50 percent of students were eligible at P-O elementary schools, he added.

“But as a rule, as the students get older, the numbers decrease,” Paladina said.

In 2015-16, 1,183 students were in the free or reduced lunch program at State College Area School District.

District spokesman Chris Rosenblum said that represented 17 percent of total enrollment.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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