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Filling Out Free/Reduced Meals Application Brings Multiple Benefits

Filling out free/reduced meals application brings multiple benefits

Taking a few minutes to fill out a free/reduced school meals application for your family could provide more benefits than one might expect. If your household qualifies, your student(s) could save hundreds of dollars on various school-related fees, and the district could receive more funding to help low-income students.

First, how does one apply for free or reduced meals? There are three easy ways to do it:

1.      Fill out a form on your Skyward Family Access account – no printing required.

2.      Print out the form – available in both English and Spanish – from the Ferndale School District website. Hover to the “Dept./Programs” tab at the top of the page, and select “Child Nutrition” from the drop-down menu to find the forms.

3.      Pick up a hard copy of the form, in English or Spanish, at any Ferndale school building.

Qualifying for free or reduced lunch depends on two factors: your household income and how many people live in your household. For example, if three people live in your home, an annual income of $40,626 or less would qualify your student(s) for reduced-cost meals. If eight people live in your home, you’d have to earn $82,621 or less.

If your household doesn’t qualify for free or reduced meals at this exact moment, but circumstances change in the middle of the school year, you can still fill out a new application, said Renetta Pollock, Administrative Assistant for Food Services for Ferndale School District.

“Let’s say you have a baby. Fill out a new application, because you have one new person in your household,” she said. “If you’re in a two-income house, and someone loses their job, fill out a new application.”

Every free/reduced meals application that is sent to Ferndale School District can only be shared amongst a very small group of school administrators, unless a parent or guardian signs a form allowing otherwise, Pollock said.

“Rest assured, it’s private information,” she said.

If your student qualifies for free or reduced meals, their benefits go beyond the lunchroom. For high school students who qualify, an ASB card – normally $40 – is free. The cost of driver’s education classes at Ferndale High School, normally $365, shrink to $215. And insurance for school-issued electronic devices falls from $25 to $10.

In years past, AP testing fees have been reduced or waived entirely for qualifying students. But that decision depends entirely on College Board, the company that creates the tests, said Cathy Howard, ASB Bookkeeper for Ferndale High School.

Furthermore, there are both state and federal programs – Learning Assistance Program and Title I, respectively – that help students in need, and those dollars are allocated per district based upon the amount of students receiving free or reduced meals. The deadline for deciding these funding amounts per district is October 13.

The namesake benefit of applying for free or reduced lunch will be available to all students this school year, thanks to COVID-19 relief funds, Pollock said.

“The cool thing about this year is that everybody eats for free,” she said.

But because of additional benefits to both local families and local schools, all families should apply for free or reduced meals regardless, Pollock said.