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School district looks to increase free, reduced meal applications

Applications are down for the free and reduced price meal program in the Warrensburg R-VI District.
The problem is there are some 2,300 students who qualify.

“Our free and reduced percentage actually keeps going down every year, so that’s not good for us funding-wise, programming-wise,” said Heather Wirsig, the district’s food services director. “I guess it’s good economy-wise, but for our programs, and especially the summer feeding program, that’s not a good thing.”

Wirsig said several grants and funding programs are tied to the free and reduced demographics.

“The higher our free and reduced percentage, the more programs and grant assistance we would qualify for,” Wirsig said.

Wirsig discussed the need to increase the number of applicants in the district’s free and reduced price meal program during the R-VI Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

She said 286 total families have applied so far this year for the program this year, and the plans for 313 families are scheduled to expire soon, which is 29 percent of the current total of students who qualify. There are also 2,331 students in the district who qualify for the program but haven’t applied for it.

Half of the applications have been online applications.

Wirsig said meal participation is down some from last year, and she said she finds it frustrating that some parents refuse to reap the benefits of the program.

“I do have a handful of parents or guardians that call every year that do qualify but they say ‘No, I don’t want my kids to have that. I’m trying to teach them that things in life aren’t free,’ or ‘I want to teach them a lesson on being responsible.’ And those are the most frustrating phone calls I ever get,” Wirsig said.

The program has also been partnering with local merchants to provide locally grown food for the meals. The Warrensburg High School agriculture department also helped the food service program create a garden so the faculty is able to use food grown in the garden in meals.

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