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More military families eligible for reduced-price, free school lunches

DARMSTADT, Germany — More military families with schoolchildren may qualify for free and reduced-price lunches through Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe.

DODDS officials announced this month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved their request to make qualifying easier by switching the state-based income guidelines from Hawaii to Alaska. The switch raised the salary cap a few thousand dollars, allowing more families to fall under it.

For example, a family of four used to earn $29,900 or less to get free lunches for their school-age children. Now the same family can earn $32,500 and qualify.

The new rule applies to schools in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Azores, Turkey, Cuba, South Korea, Japan, and Okinawa, according to a Department of Defense Education Activity news release. It doesn’t apply to schools in Puerto Rico or Guam, the release said.

DODDS Europe spokesman David Ruderman urged eligible parents to apply.

“Lunches can take an economic bite out of the monthly expenditures,” Ruderman said. “It’s not a tremendous amount of money, but for the folks who are budget-conscious, it does make a difference — especially if they have more than one child in school.”

For example, full-price lunches at the elementary schools cost $2.05, while reduced-price lunches are 40 cents.

The USDA lunch program is run by School Food Authorities, which provide “nutritionally balanced” meals to the local school population and offer the free and reduced program to eligible families.

AAFES, Navy Exchange Service Command and Marine Corps Community Services are designated authorities for DODDS.

AAFES manages the food program in nine countries. It supplied a number of military families with free and reduced lunches in Europe even before the new guidelines, said AFFES Europe spokesman Lt. Col. David Konop.

According to February’s numbers, AFFES provided 315,830 school lunch meals — 21 percent free and 22 percent reduced in price. About 30 percent of enrolled students in Europe schools qualified for free or reduced-priced meals in February, Konop said.

Yet many families who qualify don’t fill out an application at their installations, Ruderman said.

“Not all the families who qualify take advantage of it and they should,” Ruderman said.


In the lunch line

Here are some of the new eligible annual income levels. A family that makes the listed amount or less would qualify.

Free lunches

  • Family of 2 $21,450
  • Family of 3 $26,975
  • Family of 4 $32,500
  • Family of 5 $38,025
  • Family of 6 $43,550

Reduced-price lunches

  • Family of 2 $30,525
  • Family of 3 $38,388
  • Family of 4 $46,250
  • Family of 5 $54,113
  • Family of 6 $61,975

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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