Free And Reduced Lunch Enrollment At All-Time High

With kids back in school today, the need for free and reduced lunches in the Wichita Falls Independent School District is at an all-time high.  To give you an idea, about 45% of WFISD students received free or reduced price lunch in 2000.  Now, that number is up to at least 60%, and will likely keep climbing.

Although lunch for an elementary student is $1.75, and a secondary student would pay just $2.15, this school year has seen a huge jump in the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.  Superintendent George Kazanas says the program's requirements haven't changed.

"I think other factors that you have to consider are the economy, the recession, and things of that nature, and I think Wichita Falls is just seeing some of those effects here in the school district," he said.

"I think there's more of a prevalent need this year," said Food Services Interim Director Kathy Bolton.

Before school started, the district's Food Services sent out a purple application in the mail to every household.  About 60% of students are already enrolled in the program, and that doesn't include the applications that will be turned in during the first few days of school.  Bolton says the process is simple.

"Be sure to list everyone on your application, anyone in your household, so that anyone can get on there, and you'll have to put your income on there," she said.

Because free and reduced lunch is a federal program, the school district never loses money from high enrollment.

"Those are verified by our Food Service Department and then those counts that are submitted and turned in, and then the district does receive a reimbursement for that," Kazanas said.

Applications for free and reduced lunches take about ten days to process.  Bolton says it's a good idea to go ahead and fill out the application, even if you don't think your family will qualify --it could only benefit you.

"We want them to have a good learning environment.  We want them to have good nutrition in their bodies for the learning process," she said.

A reduced price lunch only costs 40 cents.  At WFISD, free breakfast is also available before class starts.  That free meal is open for all students -- it doesn't matter what they pay for lunch or what their family income is.

Along with help in lunch prices, WFISD has also increased the ratio of counselors to students across the district.  Depending on a child's needs, counselors can point them and their parents in the direction of social services, where they can also get help with things such as clothing.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6