With the start of the new school year, the Maine Department of Education has released the eligibility criteria to qualify for free or reduced school meals and milk.

Students from families whose annual income is equal to or less than the federal income guidelines are eligible for free or reduced priced meals, free milk for kindergarten student and free milk at schools offering only a milk program.

The income guidelines for a family of four are a monthly combined income of no more than $2,552 for free meals and milk or $3,631 for reduced price meals.

Applications will be available to each student on the first day of school and all information collected on the applications will remain completely confidential.

Each application must include the names of all adult household members, their total monthly income by source and the signature of at lease one of the adults in the home. The last four digits of the Social Security number of the signing adult must also be given.

A family or a child receiving Food Stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families need only list the name of the child and the case number and sign the application without having to complete the income portion of the application.

In certain cases, foster children are also eligible for free meals or free milk. For assistance in completing the application for a foster child, the foster parent should contact the school.

All applications are subject to selection for verification. The parents or guardians filing an application will be notified of the outcome of the application process. If a family is dissatisfied with the decision of the school official the parent or guardian may make a request – either orally or in writing – to the superintendent of schools or the administrator of a private school for a hearing to appeal the decision.

Go online to www.maine.gov/doe/ and select “Nutrition” in the A-Z index or contact Food Service Specialist Walter Beesley at 624-6875 for more information.

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