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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The poverty levels for families seeking free and reduced price lunches for students attending base schools in Pacific and Europe are about $1,000 higher this year.

Last year, the maximum income eligibility guideline for a family of four was $34,450 a year or less for free lunches and $49,025 annually for reduced price meals. On Friday, the Department of Defense Educational Activity announced the maximums for the same size family are now $35,841 and $51,005, respectively.

The rates are for all overseas schools except for Guam, which follows the federal guidelines for the 48 contiguous states.

The new eligibility rates for the Pacific are based on the federal income eligibility rates for Alaska and are in effect through June 30, 2010. The chart is available at: http://www.dodea.edu/offices/logistics/docs/IEGs09_10.pdf.

Families can apply for free or reduced price lunches at any time during the school year, according to a DODEA news release.

The exchange services provide the lunches to schools in the Pacific. According to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the cost of school lunches for students remains unchanged this year, even though nearly 60 percent of the public schools in the U.S. increased school lunch prices an average of 25 cents to keep up with costs, according to the School Nutrition Association.

DODDS elementary school students in the Pacific pay $2.05 for lunch and secondary students pay $2.20. Students eligible for reduced prices in elementary and secondary schools pay 40 cents.

Last year, 1,689 students of the 18,353 enrolled in Pacific DODDS schools qualified for free lunches and 1,249 qualified for the reduced price lunches.

Families can apply for the program at their installations.

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