A good nutrition is key to a good education.

With that in mind, Rebecca Eckert, SISD director of child nutrition, is reminding parents that there are services provided to Stephenville families to ensure students are getting the nutrition they need to succeed.

With the economy waging an all-out war on finances, Eckert is reminding parents that a free and reduced breakfast and lunch program is available for qualified families. She said with breakfast costing $1 per day and lunch $2 daily, for pre-kindergarten - sixth grade students, a single-student household can quickly rack up $60 per month in cafeteria costs. For seventh-12th grade students, lunch is $2.25 and the additional 25 cents daily adds up to an extra $5.

“For many families, the charges add up and due to the inability to pay, students are missing out on the nutrition they need,” Eckert said.

She also said that many families don’t think they will qualify for assistance.

“Give it a shot,” Eckert said, adding that an application only takes a few minutes to complete.

Families who receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, formerly called the Food Stamp Program, are automatically qualified for the free meal program. Participation in the WIC program is not an automatic qualifier and an application will be required to determine eligibility.

For reduced meals, which are only 30 cents per day for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch - that’s about $14 per month per child. To qualify, a household income must fall within the limits on the Federal Income Chart. See chart inside.

For example, a single-child, single-parent household with an annual gross income of $18,941 or less qualifies for free meals, while the same household with an annual gross income of $26,955 or less qualifies for the reduced meal program.

Once qualified, students remain eligible for the remainder of the school year.

Finally, Eckert is urging parents to fill out their applications as quickly as possible.

Applications may be obtained from any campus within the Stephenville ISD or directly from Eckert’s office in the SISD Central Administration Office, located at 2655 Overhill Drive.

“If parents and caregivers will just take a few minutes to stop by my office and complete an application, they will know if they are qualified before they leave,” Eckert said. “And that will be one less thing they have to worry about during the first week of school.”

Once students are signed up with the free or reduced meal program, parents can keep track of their child’s spending through the district’s Web site, www.sville.us. By clicking on the Nutrikids quick link, money can be added to student’s school meal account at anytime online.

“By having money in each child’s account prior to entering the cafeteria, we find the lunch lines move along much faster so children have more time to eat and be with friends,” Eckert said. “The service also provides parents the ability to view their child’s account balance.”

Also, parents have the ability to print out a copy of their child’s eating history report, which shows all the dates and times the student has purchased a breakfast and/or lunch within the past 30 days.

But seasoned parents will warn you: if your child skips the lunch line and opts for snack bar dining, their balance will be quickly diminished. Snack bar purchases are separate from the free and reduced meal program.

For more information, call Eckert at 968-4826.

If your student attends classes within another district, call the child nutrition department for information on the free and reduced meal program.