GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — For the last two years, all students were eligible to receive free school lunches through a program funded by the federal government.
That program has expired as families prepare for the upcoming school year.
“What that means for parents is you need to apply for those meal benefits,” said Jenaffer Stevenson, Director of Student Nutrition Services for the School District of Pickens County.
Applications can be found on districts’ websites and at each school.
Parents or guardians will be asked to submit information about their household size and income as well as if they participate in any assistance programs. Citizenship or immigration status does affect eligibility.
Families will be notified if their child qualifies for free or reduced-priced lunch.
“You can complete that application in less than five minutes,” said Joe Urban, Director of Food Service for Greenville County Schools. “We can process them within 24 hours.”
School leaders encourage families to apply for the lunch program before the first day of school.
Urban said if they do not complete it by then, a student’s lunch program status from the previous school year will carry into the new school year for 30 days.
Families only need to submit one application per household.
The school year has already begun in Pickens County. Stevenson said the district has received about 3,500 applications for free or reduced-priced lunch.
“It does take a lot of stress off a child if they don’t have to worry about making that payment,” said Stevenson. “The last couple years, it sped the lunch lines up. It was a more relaxed environment.”
Meanwhile, Greenville County Schools is getting ready to welcome students back next week. They are prepping classrooms and lunch rooms.
“We’re probably the most innovative program in the country,” said Urban. “We have salad bars three times a week. We do nothing but fresh fruit. You’re going to see a lot of options and lot of increased vegetarian options daily in all grade levels.”