Rushville Republican

April 18, 2014

More than half of local students get lunch assistance

By Boris Ladwig For the Rushville Republican
Rushville Republican

---- — The share of students at Greensburg Community Schools who get free and reduced lunches has spiked by about a third in the last five years.

Fifty-one percent of Greensburg students get help through the federal school lunch program, according to the Indiana Department of Education. That’s up from 38 percent in the 2008/09 school year. According to a local school official, the current figure is even higher, at 57 percent.

Statewide, 48 percent of students qualify for free/reduced lunches, up 26 percent from 2008/09.

School corporations in Decatur and nearby counties in the last few years also recorded significant increases in the share of eligible students. Decatur, Rush and Bartholomew schools recorded shares of between 42 and 48 percent this year. Five years ago, none of the corporations had shares higher than 36 percent.

A local education official said the rise in eligible students is a result of economic stagnation and changing eligibility requirements.

To be eligible for a reduced price meal, households can earn no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. That equates to an annual income of $28,694 for a household of two. Households that earn no more than 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines qualify for free lunches. That amount for a household of two is $20,163.

The recession has resulted in many people receiving less of an income, which means more families qualify for the free/reduced lunches, said Tom Hunter, superintendent of Greensburg Community Schools.

State legislators have questioned the accuracy of the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches, because the federal program does not allow for verification of the incomes that parents state on the application. In Greensburg Community Schools, students are enrolled in the program automatically if they receive food stamps or other assistance. Of those who file an application to receive free or reduced lunches, the schools pull about 10 applications per year at random to verify the income, said Angie Kirchoff, director of food service.

More information on free and reduced lunches:

•fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program

•doe.in.gov/nutrition/snp-free-and-reduced-information

Contact: Boris Ladwig 812-663-3111 x7401; boris.ladwig@greensburgdailynews.com