Hunger at school leads to bad grades and poor attendance, according to Dallas school leaders.
Nearly 90% of Dallas ISD students receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch at school, but thousands may be cut off this week if their parents don't sign up in time.
Many students who received free or reduced meals last year automatically rolled over for the first month of this school year, but on Friday, the grace period ends.
Milk and chicken were on the menu at Hector Garcia Middle School in Oak Cliff. The lunch line is very orderly, and none of the uniformed tweens are carrying lunch boxes because most get a free or $.40 lunch at the register.
"At least I'm not paying the whole price, at least it's something and if you can get a dollar or $2 off, it's something," said Yoana Trevino, a Hector Garcia Middle School mom.
140,000 Dallas ISD students are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program. It's federally subsidized, so the district gets reimbursed by the USDA every month for the meals it serves.
"A big portion of our budget depends on parents filling out these applications," said Dora Rivas, the head of Dallas ISD's Food and Child Nutrition Services. "The numbers we have on file for free and reduced also affect funding for other federal programs."
Those include Title I and other monies for low-income schools. Dora Rivas says parents wait until the last minute every year to sign up their kids. There are just more of them, 35,000 this September.
After Friday, if they fail to sign up, parents would have to pay $1.25 for a full-price breakfast and $1.75 for a full-price lunch versus $.30 for a reduced breakfast and $.40 for a reduced lunch.
"That's a lot of money, in a week, it would probably be like 20 bucks," said Janie Camacho, a Hector Garcia Middle School mom.
Several parents told us Hector Garcia Middle School administrators called parents the week before school started to remind them to sign their kids up.
"I think the school needs to start calling those parents again and remind them of that so they can come and fill it out," said Porfirio Coronado, the older brother of a Hector Garcia Middle School student.
In anticipation of those anxious parent calls, Dallas ISD hired dozens of temporary workers to help with all the last-minute applications.
"We really don't wanna drop off any children, they're the ones that end up getting hurt by the process," said Rivas.
Qualifying for the free and reduced lunch program is based on a family's income, and the family must provide documents supporting it. One application per family is needed even if there are multiple children.
We have a link to the form and information:
DISD Free and Reduced Lunch Program
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