The jobless rate for the Charlotte region reached 7.1 percent in October, one of the highest numbers for unemployment in nearly 20 years. Families across Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are struggling to make ends meet, and that includes finding the money to feed their children.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools wants to remind families that Child Nutrition Services accepts applications for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program throughout the year. Applications are mailed in August to households of all CMS students, but families may apply for meal benefits at any time during the school year. The Child Nutrition Office reviews applications and determines eligibility based on United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines.

Students may also be granted free-meal benefits through a process called direct certification. The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services notifies the district about children who receive food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits; those children are also eligible for free school meals.
“We want to make sure all children receive nutritious meals,” said Cindy Hobbs, director of Child Nutrition Services for CMS. “It is important that families who need help apply for the free and reduced-price lunch program, so their children may receive meals as soon as possible.”
Children who qualify for free meals receive one breakfast and one lunch each day. Children approved for reduced-price meals pay 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. Benefits are based on the federal income chart, which provides benefits to a family of four making less than $39,220 a year. The meal application is available on the CMS Web site.
Child nutrition workers serve nearly 23.5 million meals a year and 48.7 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. For more information on the meal program, call Child Nutrition Services at 980-343-6041.