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By asoglin
Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 at 9:10 am in Kids & Tweens, Miss School Manners, Teens.

teacher Dear Miss School Manners:
My daughter is going into third grade. Last year, one of her classmates frequently came to school without a lunch or money to buy one. I started packing some extra food for my daughter to give her, but I seem to recall someone saying there is a free lunch program for children in need. Do I talk with the teacher or principal? Having met this classmate’s mom, I don’t think she’d be receptive to “charity” but her daughter’s well-being is important. What can I do to help? Signed, Concerned Mom in Antioch

Dear Concerned Mom: What a wonderful parent you are, and what a fantastic lesson in compassion for your daughter! Yes, there is indeed a free/reduced price school meal program – milk, breakfast and lunch – that serves children in need…

(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

And going to your child’s teacher or principal is the perfect way to help, because they can help this classmate’s mom access it discreetly. She may be feeling like she’s the only one, but that’s not so. It’s a staggering measure of just how widespread childhood poverty is, even in the beautiful Bay Area, that some 37 percent of the Antioch school district’s students receive free or reduced price meals. In Brentwood, it’s 21 percent, In Berkeley, 40 percent. West Contra Costa, 86 percent.

We’ll get to how to access the paperwork in a minute, but first a quick word about who’s eligible. Here’s the deal – children whose families meet certain income limits ($38,203 or less for a family of four in 2007-08, for example), or who are on CalWorks or food stamps are eligible for free or reduced price school meals. And this food is available not only during the school year, but in the summer too through schools.

HOW TO SIGN UP: Forms are distributed to children at the start of the school year and they’re available in the school office year-round. They’re also available online. We were going to give you the direct link to Antioch’s application forms, in English and in Spanish – theoretically, it should be here . But it looks like there’s a glitch in Antioch’s web site. We’re letting them know, and we’ll update this page as soon as the problem’s fixed.

To find the forms for your school district, go to the district’s web site and look under nutrition or food services – Mt. Diablo’s, for example, is on its food services page. Most of the other districts we checked did not yet have 2007-08 forms. West Contra Costa asks that families contact their child’s school cafeteria or call 510-620-2096 for an application.

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