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United Way warns school lunch changes could hurt already struggling Central Florida families

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Central Florida families will have to apply for free and reduced lunch benefits this school year, for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The last two years, meals were free for every child in public schools across the country regardless of household income. 

Applications for the program have been sent out to households for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

Children must come from families who are at or below 130 percent of the poverty line in order to qualify for free meals.  

Ray Larsen is Executive Director of Heart of Florida United Way. He says he’s worried about the kids who don’t make the cut. 

"Nearly half of the households in Central Florida are families that are working hard to try to make ends meet, meet their bills month to month, but are very vulnerable. So every challenge, every benefit that’s taken away makes it that much harder."

Larsen says using the poverty line as a guideline is arbitrary and not a good measure of the number of people who are actually struggling to make ends meet in the Orlando area.

"The poverty guideline, the poverty line, in no way captures the families in our community that are in need. Certainly it catches some of them. But as I said, way above that we have these other families that are working that make more than the poverty line, but still are incredibly vulnerable."

Foster children automatically qualify for the program. Children who are homeless or part of the migrant education program can contact their school district for assistance.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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