More students take advantage of school lunch deal 

Free and reduced-price meals are being taken advantage of at an increased rate following intensive campaigns and outreach, according to San Francisco Unified School District officials.

Based on federal standards, a family of four with an average income of less than $28,655 — 130 percent of the poverty level — qualifies for free lunch at a public school. Children from families between the 130 and 185 percent poverty level, or less than $40,793, qualify for reduced-price lunch.

Nancy Waymack, director of policy and operations for the district, said 90 percent of the nearly 32,000 eligible students signed up to get free or reduced-price lunches in the 2009-10 school year.

"We’re getting better each year," Waymack said. "Feeding students is our primary goal, but we also want to accurately measure the number of students below poverty."

Roughly 1,500 more students participated in 2009-10 compared to the 2008-09 school year, according to district officials. The SFUSD has an estimated student population of 55,000.

Waymack said the district has made extensive efforts to help families fill out and return forms in the first few weeks of school in order to feed students and bring more money to campuses.

Applications submitted for grant money will often look at the number of students that qualify for free and reduced-price lunches to help gage demand, she said.

Federal standards for the programs don’t, however, account for the high rents low-wage workers pay in urban areas.

In San Francisco, when adjusted, 19 percent of the population is considered at the poverty level, compared to 10 percent before the state adjustment, according to the Public Policy Institute, a San Francisco nonprofit.

Waymack said the high cost of living in The City compared to other parts of the nation is a common subject the district discusses with state and federal legislators when seeking funding, but so far nothing has come of it. In the meantime, Waymack said, the district partners with community groups, food banks and junior colleges to bring food to schools.

"We are concerned we are not reaching everyone who needs additional food," she said.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

 

Dishing out the food

 

More students are taking advantage of free and reduced-price lunches.

31,830 Eligible students

55,183 Students in district

90 Percent signed up in 2009-10

5 Percent increase from 2008-09

Source: SFUSD

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