Policy for free, reduced meals announced

Policy for free, reduced meals announced Child and Adult Nutrition Services in the South Dakota Department of Education has announced the policy for free milk or free and reduced price meals.

The policy applies to children unable to pay the full price of meals or milk served under the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and/or Special Milk Programs. The administrative office of each school that participates in the lunch, breakfast, and/or milk program has a copy of the policy that is available for review.

Schools participating in one or more of the programs in this area are Vermillion Public and St. Agnes School.

Children from families whose income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for free or reduced price meals and may be eligible for free milk if the school participates in a federally funded pricing Special Milk Program. Families may apply for free or reduced price meals or for free milk for their children for the 2003-2004 school year according to the guidelines effective July 1. Local schools will provide applications to all households.

Households currently on Food Stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) will receive letters indicating that their children are eligible for free school meals. These families should not complete an application for free meals. They should bring the letter or a copy of the letter to school. Families receiving commodities through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) can request an Interagency Action Notice that can be brought to the school in place of an application to document eligibility for free meals.

Most foster children are eligible for free or reduced price meals or free milk regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Households with a foster child should contact the school for more information on how to apply for the benefits.

To apply for free or reduced price meals, other households should fill out the application and return it to the school. Applications must include the names of children for whom benefits are requested, all family members and their monthly income, and be signed by an adult household member with that person's social security number. Incomplete applications will not be approved. Additional copies are available in school offices.

Information provided on applications is confidential and will be used only for the purpose of determining eligibility status for school meals and Title I programs. If a household that receives food stamps, TANF, or FDPIR (Commodities) does not receive the letter from Social Services or the Interagency Notice of Action or chooses not to bring it to school, the household should complete an application.

An application from these households must include the names of children for whom benefits are being requested, the case number from their program, and the signature of an adult household member. At any time during the school year, school or other program officials may verify the information on any application.

Households that receive free or reduced price meals or free milk for children must report to the school increases in household income of over $50 per month or $600 per year and/or any decreased in household size, or if a child's or the household's TANF, food stamp, or commodity benefits are rescinded.

Applications may be submitted at any time during the year. If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size changes, the family should contact the school. If a parent or guardian becomes unemployed, children from that household may be eligible for free or reduced price meals or free milk during the time of unemployment if the household's income falls within the income eligibility guidelines.

If a parent or guardian is dissatisfied with the ruling on the application for eligibility, she/he may contact the determining official on an informal basis. If the parent or guardian wishes to make a formal appeal, an oral or written request may be made to the school's hearing official for a hearing to appeal the decision.

The packet may also include a special notice about the Children's Health Insurance Program. The insurance program form does not affect the decision about a household's eligibility for meal benefits. Children who get free or reduced price meals are treated the same as children who pay for meals. No child will be discriminated against, an accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy. Institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a discrimination complaint, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD).

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. If a child needs a special diet as prescribed by a doctor, the family should contact the local school's food service manager.

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