DARMSTADT, Germany — Whoever said there was no such thing as a free lunch obviously was never a DODDS student.

For the first time in nearly 25 years, the eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches in Department of Defense Dependents Schools overseas has been re-evaluated for military and DOD civilian families living on the economy.

After a regulation change in late October, the Department of Defense Education Activity issued a statement encouraging families of DODDS pupils who live off base to apply or re-apply for free or reduced-price meals.

Under the old regulations, the off-base housing allowance was counted as income, but the new change eliminates the off-base housing allowance from the income equation, according to the DODEA statement.

“This should greatly increase the number of children eligible to receive reduced-price or free lunches at school,” wrote Pat Lambe, DODEA spokeswoman, in an e-mail statement.

“Some children living off installation may find that they now qualify for reduced-price lunches, those already eligible for the reduced prices may now qualify for free lunches.”

The new policy went into effect upon the signing of an agreement between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Lambe in the statement.

However, the new policy change does not affect children of families living in military housing or pupils at DOD schools in the United States, according to Lambe.

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 and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site.

It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 26 million children each school day.

Families interested in seeing if their eligibility has changed with the new policy should contact their school liaison officer, according to Frank O’Gara, the DODDS-Europe spokesman.

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

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