WICHITA, Kansas – The Wichita school district decided to opt out of a new federal program that would have offered free meals to every student, regardless of income, but they want families to know free meals are still available for some.
Margarita Carlson, a grandmother of four, says the program is a huge relief.
“For me its everything. I’m on a fixed income, I get food stamps and if I had to the school year provide that extra, I would not meet the needs.”
Margarita is just one of the many who have or are planning on applying for the yearly assistance.
She says it’s a sign that people are struggling.
“I think as time goes by it could get worse.
Officials say it’s too soon to determine if there has been an increase in application, but they did point out that last year more than 3/4th of Wichita students were eligible for free and reduced meals.
“Last year we were between 75 and 78, close to 77 percent free and reduced in our district. and we don’t see those numbers being lower this year,” said Nutrition Services Director Vicki Hoffman.
Hoffman says they are encouraging families to see if they qualify.
For a family of four: They’ll get free lunches if they make around $31,000 a year, or less. That same family qualifies for reduced price lunches if they make around $44,000 or less.
Hoffman says this year those income guidelines are slightly higher.
“They tend to go up 1 percent each year they guideline for those meal benefits are based on the federal poverty guidelines.”
There is no deadline to apply for the free meal program. You can do it online or contact the school or child care center to apply.