Fewer Ohio students receive subsidized lunches
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 22:02
A recent report by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) showed that fewer Ohio students in elementary and high schools receive free and reduced-price lunches this 2012-2013 school year.
Children in public and private Ohio schools can qualify for these lunches depending on parent income. In October 2011, just over 725,000 students received free lunches. In October 2012 students qualifying for free lunches totaled just over 710,000.
The number of eligible students receiving reduced-priced lunches dropped as well, from around 115,000 in 2011 to 108,000 in 2012.
Mary Kershaw, spokesperson for ODE, said the main reason fewer students receive discounted lunches is because enrollment in Ohio schools has dropped this year.
“Fewer children are enrolled in schools in [grades] 11 and 12, and that has caused a reduction in the number receiving free and reduced-price lunches,” Kershaw said.
Schools base their calculations on which students receive help paying for meals on a chart provided by the USDA. Families applying for their children to have free or reduced lunches send in their income information and if it is under certain guidelines, they can be eligible.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said she thinks the decrease in students receiving free and reduced lunches will not be a factor for long.
“A 0.9 percent decrease isn’t a trend in my book,” Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said.
Hamler-Fugitt said there are several other reasons to explain the drop in students who receive free or reduced lunches at school.
“There could be some inconsistencies in the data, and especially for older high school students, stigma can play a role,” Hamler-Fugitt said. “Sometimes students don’t want to sign up [for free or reduced lunches] because they don’t want anyone to know about it.”
Needy families can always check their status online to see what they can qualify for, Hamler-Fugitt said.
“If folks are struggling, they can [go online] and in 90 seconds they can find out how likely they would be for a broad array of not only things like free and reduced meals, but other help programs,” Hamler-Fugitt said.
Junior Emma Foltz said she thinks the state free and reduced lunch program is important for students in school.
“Being a kid on the free and reduced lunch program [when I was in school], it was a big relief for my parents,” Foltz said.
“I like the program, and a parent’s income shouldn’t affect whether a child gets to eat or not,” Foltz said. “For a lot of kids, the school lunch might be the best meal they get during the day.”