Back-to-school time is always a bit hectic and can be a financial strain. You're trying to fit in all the shopping for new clothes, new backpacks, new lunchboxes, the long list of supplies requested by teachers, perhaps fitting in some haircuts and checkups, and so on. Then there's all the paperwork Orange County Public Schools wants you to fill out and submit.
Getting it all in by the due date is important to preventing extra headaches at a time you certainly don't need them.
One bit of good news for harried lower-income OCPS families is that they can now sign up for free or reduced lunch online, even before school begins. That's right—secure your children's meal benefits without having to dig for the folded, crumpled form in their backpacks some time during the first week of school.
Applying Is Easy and Benefits Your School
Don't throw away an opportunity to save money simply because you think you make too much each year or don't want to deal with the paperwork. It is easier to qualify for a reduced lunch rate than many parents realize, and the few minutes you spend filling out the application are worth the hundreds of dollars you could save over the course of the school year.
And, in addition to saving you money, signing up for meal benefits helps your Orange County school qualify for additional resources to support technology and classroom learning. The benefit to individual schools can be huge if enough parents meet the criteria for meal assistance.
Lora Gilbert, senior director of OCPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), hopes to educate more families about the program and encourages more to apply.
“Without receiving an application, there’s no way for us to know a student’s status, and for some, that means missing out on the opportunity to eat during the day,” Gilbert said.
“This year, we’re hoping to educate those who are unaware of the program, help those who mistakenly think they won’t qualify and highlight the benefits for families of all economic levels filling out the application.”
The OCPS food program is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure students receive healthy meals that include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fried foods and those high in sugar, fat or salt are not allowed. Plus, school lunches are tastier than they used to be, and the money saved during the school year can be used toward improving nutrition at home.
“OCPS is consistently improving food service and increasing participation in our meal programs because nothing makes it onto our menus without our customer/student input,” Gilbert noted. “Whether it’s through tastings, focus groups or our annual food show, every item is student-tested and approved.”
If you'd like more information about the program or want to apply, visit OCPS online or email firstname.lastname@example.org.