Paycheck Chronicles

Military Pays and Allowances for the Free and Reduced Lunch Programs

As kiddos all over the world are headed back to school, I've been seeing lots of questions about how military pay and allowances affect the applications for Free and Reduced Lunch Programs.  Free and reduced cost lunches are a huge benefit to families who are struggling financially and many military families qualify for these programs.<

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 101,000 public and non‐profit private schools and residential child care institutions.  It provides nutritionally balanced, low‐cost or free lunches to more than 30.5 million children each school day in 2008.  In 1998, Congress expanded the National School Lunch Program to include reimbursement for snacks served to children in afterschool educational and enrichment programs to include children through 18 years of age.

The Food and Nutrition Service administers the program at the Federal level.  At the State level, the National School Lunch Program is usually administered by State education agencies, which operate the program through agreements with school food authorities. (From the NSLP Fact Sheet.)

The big question is this:  What pays and allowances do you include as income?

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH):  You include the housing allowance if you live off base, but you do not include housing allowance if you live on base or live in privatized military housing.  I can already hear the cries of "unfair!" and I agree.  If anyone wants to start talking to Congress about that, I am sure that you would find a huge amount of support from military families.  Unfortunately, that is the way that the rules are currently written.

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), incentive pays, alimony, child support and any other income are supposed to be included as income.

Military service members who receive the Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance do not include that allowance as part of their income.

Eligibility for Free or Reduced Breakfast and Lunch programs is based upon Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEGs) that are published by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.  In addition to students who qualify based on the IEGs, families who receive WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits are automatically eligible (but may need to apply.)  There are three different charts for IEGs - one for the continental US, one for Hawaii, and one for Alaska (and overseas locations.)  The rates for the 2010-2011 school year have not changed from the 2009-2010 rates.  You can find the charts in this document, but you will have to scroll down to page three.

I hope this answers lots of questions about the free and reduced price school lunch program.  If you have other questions, you can leave them in the comments or contact your child's school.

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