New guidelines issued for school lunch program

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- County school districts have issued joint guidelines for free or reduced price meals or milk programs through Berrien County Intermediate School District.
The new guidelines are due to changes in the Department of Agriculture regulations.
Each district will update their policies and establish the new family income schedules for determining children eligible for free or reduced price lunches, breakfasts or milk.
The new schedules will go into effect at the beginning of the 2003-04 school year.
Bob Wright, Niles Community Schools business manager, said Niles Community Schools will send out a letter containing information and application forms about the new schedules.
He hopes to have the letters out by the 18 or 19 of August, which is the week before school starts.
He suggests parents send the application form to one of the schools their children attend to ensure the application is reviewed in a timely manner.
Wright said Niles Community Schools has allowed families to apply for all of their children on one application form the last two years.
Wright said the new application form has probably increased the amount of applications the school district has received by 10 percent.
The school district probably receives applications from a third of the households they send the information package to, he said.
Wright said at the beginning of the school year it may take three to four days for an application to be reviewed because of the large amount of applications the school district receives.
However, throughout the year an application for free meals or milk, or reduced priced meals, is likely to be reviewed the same day it is handed in, he said.
Wright said parents are expected to let the school district know if their income situation changes throughout the school year.
According to the joint statement, If children are approved for free or reduced price meal benefits, the household must report to the school increases in household income over $50 per month and decreases in household size.
The information provided by the household is confidential and will be used only for the purpose of determining eligibility, verifying data, or qualifying children for other federal and state programs, as authorized by the U.S Department of Agriculture.
Parents or guardians dissatisfied with the ruling of any school official may wish to discuss the decision with the determining official on an informal basis. But the household also has the right to a fair hearing, which can be done by calling or writing the school district's Hearing Official.

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