Many students eligible for free, reduced-price meals
With the start of school less than a week away, local school officials are notifying parents of qualifying families they still have time to register for free or reduced-priced meals for their children.And the process is easier than one might expect.Judi Rodriguez, director of food services for Big Spring Independent School District, said all applications for free or reduced-price meals will be submitted online. If parents don't have internet access at their homes, they can use computers set aside for their use at the BSISD food service office at 708 E. 11th Place.To apply, go to the district's web site (www.bsisd.esc18.net), click first on the food service department tab on the left side of the home page under “departments,” then on the “meal app now” tab.“We're not taking paper applications for those meals anymore,” Rodriguez said. “It's all online. We have computers here at the office that people can use and we'll be glad to help them through the application process.”A significant number — around 78 percent — of BSISD students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, Rodriguez said, but parents must apply for the benefit, Rodriguez said.Among families that qualify for free meals are those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — what was formerly known as food stamps — or those who have already received a letter from the school district informing them of their eligibility. Also, homeless, runaway, foster and migrant children can qualify for free meals.Eligibility for reduced-price meals is determined using an income chart.Families do not have to be U.S. citizens to qualify for the program.Even if parents are unsure whether their children qualify, Rodriguez encourages them to apply for the program.Full prices for school lunches are increasing this year at BSISD, from $1.80 to $2 at elementary campuses and from $1.80 to $2.25 at the junior high and high school.