The number of Pickerington Local School District students receiving subsidized lunches based on the amount of their household incomes has not changed significantly compared to last school year.
Since receiving President Harry Truman's signature in 1946, the National School Lunch Act has provided a federally-assisted meal program to public and nonprofit private schools, as well as residential child care institutions.
In Ohio, children receiving federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or Ohio Works First assistance are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
Essentially, those with monthly household incomes of $1,872 for a one-person household up to $6,434 for households of eight people qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
"Breakfast is typically $1.50 for K-12," said Judy Riley, Pickerington's food services supervisor. "Reduced-price breakfasts are 30 cents.
"Lunches are typically $2.50 in K-4, $2.75 5-8, along with tiered pricing at the junior high and high schools, which range from $2.75 to $3.75. Reduced-lunch price meals are 40 cents."
In addition to meeting federal or state guidelines, parents, guardians or students must apply for free and reduced-price lunches by submitting a federal government form.
District Public Relations Director David Ball said the schools communicate information to households each fall, and the deadline for applying was Sept. 26.
According to information provided by the district, about 25 percent of Pickerington's 10,600 students have been eligible for the program this year.
That compares to approximately 27 percent who qualified after submitting applications during the 2017-18 school year.
Riley said the numbers don't reveal any particular trends in household incomes among students in the district.
"The biggest trend we see is that more families are applying online rather than with paper applications," she said.
"We would not say there has been a significant change in participation in the past few years."
Although students deemed in need of the assistance receive up to two meals each school day for free or at a reduced price, the subsidization doesn't impact the district's bottom line, Ball said.
"It doesn't cost the district anything, as the free meals -- and reduced prices -- are paid for by the federal program," he said.
Pickerington Schools also offers food assistance for one month each summer.
For the past five years, the district has provided free lunches to anyone 18 and younger each week day in June. This past summer it was offered at Tussing Elementary School, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
That program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Riley said it typically feeds an average of 110 people per day.