MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — More DODDS students soon could be eating for free at the school cafeteria.

The U.S. government, for the first time in nearly 25 years, has re-evaluated the eligibility for free or reduced lunch prices in Department of Defense Dependents Schools overseas for military and Defense Department civilian families living on the economy.

The new policy eliminates off-base housing allowance as a part of family income, according to a Department of Defense Education Activity announcement this week.

DODEA officials expect more students to now qualify for free or reduced meals and encourage families to apply or re-apply for the program. Children who currently are eligible for reduced lunches now may be eligible for a free meal, DODEA officials stated.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to the regulation change earlier this year, according to a DODEA statement.

“I just think it’s to open up more doors for more kids,” said Peter Grenier, DODDS Japan District chief of staff. “It’s good for the kids. That’s the bottom line.”

This fall, lunch prices in the Army and Air Force Exchange Service overseas meal program rose by 10 cents; the increase was the first in nine years, and also was implemented at some Navy bases overseas.

In the Pacific, it’s not known how many families may now qualify for free or discounted meals, Grenier said.

The new policy does not affect children of families living in military housing. It also does not apply to pupils attending schools in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam.

The free or reduced-price lunch program is part of the National School Lunch Program, a federally assisted meal program operating in more than 99,800 public nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, according to DODEA. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 26 million children each school day.

DODEA officials state that families interested in seeing if their eligibility has changed with the new policy should contact the installation representative who normally processes applications for the free and reduced-price school meal program.

For more information on the National School Lunch Program, go to

Jessica Inigo contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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