It’s About Funding: Why Getting Your Families to Apply for Free-and-Reduced Meals Matters

 

You don’t need us to tell you that back-to-school is a busy time. District staff, volunteers, and families alike all have too much to do and too little time to do it.

But one essential task that really deserves the extra time and effort—especially this year—is getting parents and guardians to complete their Free and Reduced Price School Meals applications. Why? Because there’s a lot riding on the data those applications provide. The more eligible students you have, the more federal and state funding your school and district can receive

Funding Tied to Free-and-Reduced Eligibility

The rules and programs vary by state, but in general, student eligibility for the USDA’s National School Lunch Program is tied to Title 1 funding. Title 1 is the U.S. Department of Education’s program to improve academic achievement among low-income populations. It provides substantial amounts of supplemental funding to schools and districts that qualify.

And as you may know, if 40 percent of student enrollment meets low-income guidelines, schools are allowed to use Title 1 funds for schoolwide initiatives rather than programs targeting at-risk students only.

In addition to Title 1 funds, schools and districts can use free and reduced eligibility numbers to qualify for more state and district funding.

Millions of dollars for things like extra tutoring and classroom aides? It all starts with getting families to fill out their free and reduced meal application forms. Fortunately, i3 Education’s QuikApps software makes it easy.

Educating Parents

Coming out of the pandemic and, for some states and districts, several years of free meals provided to everyone, many parents may be extra-confused about what the free and reduced meal applications are and why they matter.

Here are some key points to use in educating your families about why you need them to complete their applications:

• Every family should complete an application every year, whether they think they’re eligible for free or reduced meals or not. Many people assume they won’t qualify, but they do. In many states, upwards of 40 to 50 percent of students qualify for at least some discount on school meal costs. Other families may not qualify, but receiving their information still helps your district gather all the data it needs to maximize supplemental funding.

• Families can often use free and reduced meal status to automatically qualify for additional community programs, such as waived or reduced school and activity fees in your district (if offered), lower internet costs, specialized tutoring programs, housing benefits, and more.

• Families can apply for free and reduced meals at any time if their circumstances change. But getting that first application in before October 1st each fall helps your school and district secure additional funding.

• All financial information submitted on the application is secure and confidential.

• Via PaySchools Central parent portal, parents can fill out the application online utilizing QuikApps software in just a few minutes. After the person completing the form presses “Submit,” the software immediately notifies them of their students’ eligibility for free or reduced meals. If they are eligible, their students will begin receiving free or reduced meals on that very day.

Questions? Talk to your PaySchools rep about how QuikApps and i3 Education’s other nutrition services tools can help you meet your back-to-school challenges.

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