VALDOSTA -- Monday night, members of the Valdosta Board of Education voted unanimously to support a reauthorization of all federal child nutrition programs.

Valdosta City School System Superintendent Sam Allen recommended board members sign a resolution urging legislators to eliminate the reduced price school meals programs and to provide free meals for all children with family incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Reduced price meals are currently offered in participating schools to children with family incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

"We need to join with other school systems in Georgia to show our support for free lunches," Allen said.

According to the Georgia Department of Education's 2001-02 Georgia Public Education Report Card, 63.8 percent of the Valdosta City School Systems' students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. Many families in the reduced price income category find it difficult to pay the reduced price free, which in the Valdosta City School System is 30 cents. This is corroborated by evidence that reduced price participation declines toward the end of the month.

In the Valdosta City School System, a full price meal in grades kindergarten through fifth is 75 cents. In grades sixth through 12th, a full price meal costs $1.

The proposed reauthorization would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and phase out reduced price lunches and breakfasts, which are free to all students in the Valdosta City School System, by phasing in an increase in the income eligibility guidelines for free lunches and breakfasts nationwide.

On July 31, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced a bill into Congress that seeks to accomplish just that. The two stressed that children in the reduced price category come from families that may be classified as the working poor, which may include welfare to work families who are improving their economic conditions slowly. They further supported their proposal by stating that the WIC program provides free benefits to nutritionally at risk women and children to age 5 in households with incomes at 185 percent or less of the U. S. poverty income guidelines.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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