Eligibility for free or reduced meal program

A chart on the application stipulates eligible income levels and number of children in the household / Ashley Knight

What exactly are the requirements for being approved for the free or reduced meal program in Dougherty County schools?

We wanted to find out, in light of recent allegations of school system employees falsifying information on these forms.

Actually, there is a chart stipulating the household income and number of children in the home that is required. Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree says it's a great thing that the federal government is doing, which is making sure every child can have a balanced meal.

According to the chart, if you have one child and your income is at or below $20,147, then you are eligible. On the flip side, you are eligible if you have eight children and make at or below $69,616. Murfree says the program isn't necessarily for those on the brink of poverty.

According to Finance Director Robert Lloyd, 10,855 families applied for the program in 2011. And people come in weekly to reclassify themselves, either because they found employment or are now unemployed, or because a child has moved out of the house.

"People's circumstances can change all the time particularly in this economic climate. As their circumstances change, they're entitled to change their application form," says Lloyd.

The school board voted Monday night to hire an outside lawyer to take a deeper look at the program. They hope to have that set in motion within 30 days.

You can download a free or reduced meal program application here