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{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;Students in households whose incomes are at or below the figures listed below qualified for help with the cost of lunch during the 2018-19 school year. The figures are 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Students who qualify for reduced-price lunch pay 40 cents. The regular price of a school lunch is $2.&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;table border=&quot;0&quot;&gt; &lt;tbody&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;Number in &lt;br /&gt;household&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;Annual household income&amp;nbsp;&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;1&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$22,459&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;2 &lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$30,451&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;3&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$38,443&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;4&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$46,435&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;5&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$54,427&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;6&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$62,419&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;7&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$70,411&amp;nbsp;&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;tr&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;8&lt;/td&gt; &lt;td&gt;&amp;nbsp;$78,403&lt;/td&gt; &lt;/tr&gt; &lt;/tbody&gt; &lt;/table&gt; &lt;p&gt;(For each additional family member over eight, add $7,992.)&lt;/p&gt;” id=”202b5309-c188-482c-8a2f-4a6276134cba” style-type=”info” title=”What does it take to qualify?” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Despite an upswing in the economy, more and more Volusia County schoolchildren are receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

More than two-thirds of students in kindergarten through 12th grade are unable to pay for the food they get in the schools’ cafeterias. That latest statistic is nearly 9 percent higher than the 59 percent of students eligible for free or discounted lunch in the fall of 2017 — even though requirements to qualify for the discounts have gotten stricter.

At last count, there were 61,473 students in Volusia County schools, and 36,626 of them pay nothing for their midday meals, while 4,393 pay a reduced price.

Eligibility is based on federal poverty guidelines, which take into account the number of people in the student’s household, along with the household income and net worth.

The school system recognizes the connection between adequate nutrition and academic achievement. Every Volusia County student may eat breakfast for free, but not everyone who applies for free or reduced-price lunches gets them. A total of 1,232 households were turned down, according to the school system.

Some of those who don’t qualify for free lunch are running up debts. To ease the burden on students and their families, each school has established an “Angel Fund.”

“Individuals and charitable organizations can donate money to a school’s ‘Angel Fund’ to help repay student meal debt,” Community Information Director Kelly Schulz wrote in an email. “Money donated to Angel Funds are distributed equitably to students with an outstanding meal debt.”

Those wishing to donate may do so in the front office of the school they choose. Schulz said the School District hopes to make online donations available in the future.

The latest report from the Volusia School District, released April 1, shows many schools have high percentages of students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals.

For example, DeLand’s Freedom Elementary School, near upscale Victoria Park, has 57 percent of its children eligible for free or low-cost lunch. Meanwhile, 90 percent of students attending Blue Lake Elementary in DeLand are on the program.

In Deltona, Spirit Elementary has almost 83 percent of its students getting free or reduced-price lunches, and Timbercrest Elementary — surrounded by neighborhoods replete with new and attractive homes — lists 73 percent.

DeBary Elementary has 44 percent of its enrollment in the program.

The high schools also show high percentages of poverty. DeLand High has 57 percent of its students on the food-need rolls. The same percentage shows up at University High in Orange City, while Deltona High comes in at 67 percent, Pine Ridge High at almost 70 percent, and Taylor Middle-High in Pierson at almost 77 percent.

Even the prestigious Ivy Hawn Charter School in Lake Helen has 39 percent of its children qualifying.

Schulz said income eligibility guidelines did change in the past year, making it more restrictive for students to take part in the program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds the school-lunch programs across the country. In more recent times, the federal program has grown to include breakfast and even supper at some schools in less-affluent communities.

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