The number of South-Western City School District students who receive free and reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program has increased since last school year.

The number of South-Western City School District students who receive free and reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program has increased since last school year.

Fifty-five percent of students, or 11,082, participated in these programs in the 2011-12 school year, compared to 53 percent, or 10,501, last school year.

Both numbers have increased significantly since 2006, when only 35 percent of students, or 9,098, participated in free or reduced lunch programs.

According to the Ohio Department of Education's website, an applicant is considered eligible for reduced price meal benefits if the household income is at or less than 185 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture established poverty guidelines. An applicant is considered eligible for free meal benefits if the household income is at or less than 130 percent of the USDA established poverty guidelines or if the student receives food stamps or Ohio Works benefits.

The district has many other programs for economic need based on the free and reduced lunch program statistics, said Sandy Nekoloff, executive director of communication and community relations. These include tutoring services and supplemental educational services.

The district also receives federal Title I funds based on the percentage of students who participate in the free and reduced lunch programs.

SWCS received $6.4 million in Title I funds for fiscal year 2011-12.

For the 2011-2012 school year, the district has 15 elementary schools and four intermediate schools that receive Title I federal funds to assist their students.

Buckeye Woods Elementary School is the only elementary school that does not qualify and Hayes Intermediate School is the only intermediate school that doesn't qualify, Nekoloff said.

The Title I program provides additional instructional support in reading and mathematics.

The district tries to help remove barriers that can prevent children from being successful. "We look at all of our children and their needs to help them be successful," Nekoloff said.