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      Free or reduced school lunch could save your family hundreds

      As the country's economic future continues on shaky ground and hundreds of mid-Missourians recover from job layoffs, there is one money-saving avenue you and your family may have overlooked: signing up for the free and reduced lunch program at your child's school.

      Many households' income levels qualify for free and reduced lunches.

      Two mid-Missouri school districts have over half of their student population participating in the program.

      Household income levels that qualify for free or reduced lunches are set at the federal level and depend on the number of people in your family.

      To receive a reduced meal price, a household of two must earn less than almost $26,000. A family of four must make less than $39,000. The maximum qualifying income for a household of six: just over $52,500.

      To get a free lunch, those same households of two, four, and six must earn less than about $18,000, $28,000, and $37,000 respectively.

      One school district where families are taking advantage of the program: Eldon, where, steadily over the past five years, about half of students have received free or reduced lunches. This year that number is the highest it's been in five years with 53 percent of students in the program.

      And Eldon Superintendent Matt Davis believes those numbers accurately reflect the income level in Eldon.

      "I think what it says for our community is that we haven't seen the new community developments," said Davis. "We haven't seen new businesses come into town to where communities around us, such as Lake of the Ozarks and Jefferson City have kind of seen some of that growth."

      Another district with a high percentage of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program: Versailles. Since before 2004, over half of students receive a free or reduced lunch. And that number is inching higher, this year nearly 60 percent of kids were enrolled in the program.

      And officials at both Eldon and Versailles say these numbers are an indication of severe economic hardships throughout their districts.

      "We have lost a factory locally. The pencil factory pulled out. Our other remaining factory, Gates, has had some layoffs," said Morgan County R-2 (Versailles) Superintendent Jeffery Carter. "And that all is an affect not just on the school but the entire community."

      Because of the current economic downturn school officials at both Eldon and Versailles tell me they fully expect the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches will increase next school year.

      Reduced lunch prices in mid-Missouri average right around 40 cents. With mid-Missouri school lunch prices right around $1.50 per child, that can save a family nearly $250 per child every school year.

      Officals at both Eldon and Versailles urge qualifying parents to contact the school district to enroll for the program.

      You can find more qualifying income information, as well as free and reduced lunch statistics for your child's school district, in the charts below.

      Educators remind parents the program is kept confidential and oftentimes students do not even know their own family is participating in the program. They also say the free and reduced lunch program can be utilized on a temporary basis while a parent searches for a job or is disabled and cannot work.

      INCOME ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES FOR FREE LUNCH

      Household Size Annually Monthly Weekly Every 2 weeks Twice a month

      1

      $13,520 $1,127 $260 $520 $564 2 $18,200 $1,517 $350 $700 $759 3 $22,880 $1,907 $440 $880 $954 4 $27,560 $2,297 $530 $1060 $1149 5 $32,240 $2,687 $620 $1240 $1344 6 $36,920 $3,077

      $710

      $1420 $1539 7 $41,600 $3,467 $800 $1600 $1734 8 $46,280 $3,857 $890 $1780 $1929 For each additional person, add: $4,680 $390 $90 $180 $195

      INCOME ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES FOR REDUCED LUNCH

      Household Size Annually Monthly Weekly Every 2 weeks Twice a month 1 $19,240 $1,604 $370 $740 $802 2 $25,900 $2,159 $499 $997 $1,080 3 $32,560 $2,714 $627 $1,253 $1,357 4 $39,220 $3,269 $755 $1,509 $1,635 5 $45,880 $3,824 $883 $1,765 $1,912 6 $52,540 $4,379 $1,011 $2,021 $2,190 7 $59,200 $4,934 $1,139 $2,277 $2,467 8 $65,860 $5,489 $1,267 $2,534 $2,745 For each additional person, add: $6,660 $555 $129 $257 $278

      FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH RATE STATISTICS: given as a percentage of total number of students enrolled in district

      School District 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 Jefferson City 36.2% 37.6% 39.3% 40.4% 42% Columbia 30.8% 31.1% 31.8% 31.1% 33.3% Eugene (Cole R-5) 34.2% 34.6% 34.5% 32.7% 32.1% Californai (Moniteau R-1) 36.4% 37.6% 42.5% 39.4% 40.8% Eldon 49% 52.5% 49.9% 51.5% 53.1% School of the Osage 45.6% 41.6% 42.4% 40.7% 43.2% Versailles (Morgan R-2) 54% 56.3% 54.8% 59.7% 59.4% Blair Oaks 12.6%

      10.9%

      11.7% 12.1% 11.5% Russellville (Cole R-1) 26.5% 29.2% 30.8% 33.1% 32.7% Vienna (Maries R-1) 33.8% 32.5% 35.6% 30.6% 37.9% Linn (Osage R-2) 37.5% 37.7% 36.1% 32.4% 31% Moberly 55.3% 54.8% 55.3% 56.8% 56.3% Boonville 38.1% 39.9% 40.9% 41.6% 40.5% Fulton 40% 40% 42.5% 42.6% 41.3% Iberia 43.9% 43.1% 43.2% 42.3% 43.7% Fatima (Osage R-3) 23.3% 22.6% 23.3% 22.4% 22.4% State of Missouri 40.5% 41.7% 40.8% 41.8% 42.1%
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