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More students receiving free and reduced-price meals

Staff writer

The number of students in Marion County schools receiving free and reduced-price meals has creeped up from a year ago. More than two-fifths of students are receiving meal benefits.

To start the 2010-11 school year, 30 percent of students are receiving free meals, and another 15 percent are receiving reduced-price meals. In 2009-10 the percentages were 29 and 13, respectively.

The portions of students receiving meal benefits by district are:

  • USD 397 Centre — 32 percent free and 17 percent reduced.
  • USD 398 Peabody-Burns — 40 percent free and 19 percent reduced.
  • USD 408 Marion/Florence — 32 percent free and 14 percent reduced.
  • USD 410 Durham-Hillsboro-Lehigh — 26 percent free and 13 percent reduced.
  • USD 411 Goessel — 20 percent free and 14 percent reduced.

Every district had an increase in the percent of students receiving meal benefits from 2009-10.

USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker believes the countywide increase in free and reduced lunches is because of the economic downturn and a trend among school districts to encourage families to apply for free and reduced-price lunches.

“It would be an indication that the economy is still struggling and affecting people’s incomes,” Leiker said. “We’re trying to help families out, letting them know it is available.”

Students receiving free and reduced priced lunches are a factor in state funding for school districts. Leiker also believes that students taking advantage of nutritionally sound school lunches perform better in school.

“I think it’s been something that’s been researched nationally and shown to be beneficial,” he said.

USD 398 was the only district to have a decrease in the percent of free meals, from 43 percent in 2009-10 to 40 percent in 2010-11. At the same time, the district had an increase in reduced-price meals from 15 to 19 percent.

Household income thresholds to qualify for meal benefits remain the same as 2009-10. A family of four qualifies for free school meals with an income of $28,665 or less. The threshold for reduced-price meals for a family of four is $40,793.

Districts cannot charge more than 40 cents for reduced-price meals.

Last modified Sept. 9, 2010

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