Nearly half of Grand Valley students qualify for meal aid

Nearly half of all School District 51 students were approved to receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch, an all-time high for the district.

Forty-five percent, or 9,612 of 21,372 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the Grand Valley, qualified in fall 2009 for the federally subsidized program, according to data released this week by the Colorado Department of Education. That’s up from 38 percent in fall 2008, despite the district having 137 more K-12 students in 2008 than in 2009.

Students living in a home where the household income is 130 percent of the poverty level or less qualify for free breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is free for students living in a home where the income is 185 percent of the poverty level, but have to pay 40 cents for lunch if the student is in third through 12th grade.

The income ceiling to receive free or reduced meals starts at $19,240 for one person living in a home and increases by $6,660 for each additional person, related or not, living in a home. The household income of a family with one parent and one child, for example, would have to be less than $25,900 to qualify for free or reduced lunch. Adding a roommate to that mix would increase the ceiling to $32,560, and so on.

The increase in low-income students could benefit the school district in funding. This year’s low-income total will be used to calculate next year’s per-student funding from the state. The more low-income students, the higher the funding.

Having more students on free and reduced lunch, though, can put a strain on student services, such as the REACH program, which helps homeless students in District 51. Enrollment in that program grew from 202 to 235 students between fall 2008 and fall 2009.

The number of students approved for the free and reduced meal program may climb higher during the school year.

“We expect that 45 percent to be greater by the end of the year,” School District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said.


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