The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

September 2, 2011

Charter schools switch to organic meals for free-lunch program

HUNTSVILLE — The new free and reduced-price lunch program at Vista Academy and Premier High School features strictly organic and sugar-free foods.

The Huntsville charters schools opted for a new lunch program at the request of students, said Mida Bias, coordinator of the schools’ Child Nutrition Program.

This led to a partnership with Responsive Education Solutions, a private nonprofit with 45 campuses in Texas, including Huntsville.

Last year, students were only offered three rotating options on the lunch menu each. The new lunch program, however, allows for eight to 12 options.

“We made that change because students were not eating the meals we were providing,” Bias said. “We basically switched our provider because the kids didn’t like it.”

Household size and income criteria are used to determine eligibility for the benefits. Children in households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits may receive free meals regardless of income.

Households receiving these services only have to list their child’s name and SNAP or TANF case number. If a case number can’t be provided, the names of all household members must be provided in the application, as well as the last four digits of the Social Security number of the adult household member who signs the application.

If that adult does not have a Social Security number, they must indicate “no number” or “none.” Applicants do not have to be U.S. citizens, or come from a household of U.S. citizens, according to a document sent from Premier High School.

Any foster children under the legal responsibility of the state agency or court are also eligible for free meal benefits, regardless of the household income they reside in.

For military families housed by the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, housing allowances should not be included as income.

Application forms, which may be verified by school officials at any time during the school year, are being distributed to all households with a letter informing parents of these services. Applications are available in the administration office of each school and must be turned back into the school.

If a household decreases in size or if one of its members becomes unemployed, it should be reported to the school. These types of changes could make students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch benefits.

Bias will review applications, which may be submitted anytime during the school year.

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