School lunch program just got easier

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School lunch program just got easier

by: Ruth Ploeger, Army Region School Liaison Officer/Transition Support Specialist | .
DODEA | .
published: July 08, 2016

Summer seems like the last time of year to think about the school lunch program. However, it may be worth your time to give it a thought now. 

Each year starting July 1, families have the option of applying for the Free and Reduced Meal program for the upcoming school year. Applying for a free or reduced price meal plan previously required parents to apply with a School Liaison Officer though Army Child, Youth and School Services or Air Force Force Support Squadron Youth Services. Finding out where to go, getting your documents together, filling out a paper application, waiting for it to be hand processed, and then registering with AAFES at a different location wasn’t exactly a customer-friendly process. 

Great news! On July 1, 2016, all of that changes.

Welcome to the 21st century! The Free and Reduced Meal application process will be a simple online application. 

  • No more running all over base/post looking for where to apply. 
  • Apply in the privacy of your home with an online application and few mouse clicks. 
  • Only one application per family needed covers all your children. 
  • Receive confirmation of your child’s status, typically within 24 hours. 
  • Lunch account is automatically updated to reflect the free or reduced status. 

“What about my LES? Do I have to scan and send it?” you may ask. Nope! There is an annual verification that will happen each October. At that time, three percent of all participants will be randomly selected for verification. Those individuals will be contacted and given instructions on how to provide the required documentation for verification. 

AAFES provides United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved nutritionally balanced meals for students in prekindergarten through 12th grade within participating Department of Defense Education Activity Europe (DODEA-E) schools on Army and Air Force installations. Student lunches are regulated and subsidized by the USDA. All student lunches are subsidized by the USDA to some degree, even full-priced meals. 

This USDA reimbursement is important to the schools because DODEA is left covering any financial losses of the lunch program at the end of the year. The greater the reimbursement amount, the less money DODEA must spend, leaving more for educational expenses. Many families who would qualify don’t apply! Please apply, as it may help your child’s school in the long run. 

To apply, go to www.aafes.com. The online Free and Reduced Meal application link is here, as well as menus and additional AAFES lunch program information. 

All students (free, full, or reduced) must sign up for a lunch account with the local AAFES Exchange cash cage. Having a lunch account doesn’t obligate your child to eating the school lunch each day. 

Also available online is a program to help you track your child’s pre-pay lunch account. Parents can get a free account on MyPaymentsPlus and access information online or via a handy smartphone app. 

Use MyPaymentsPlus to 

  • View student’s cafeteria purchases to track spending and ensure your child is making healthy choices. 
  • Enable your child to purchase items through the snack bar or a la carte (not available at all schools). 
  • Deposit funds online or via the free mobile app. Online one-time or auto payments can be made for a small transaction fee. (Payments can still be made at the Exchange cash cage or cafeteria for no fee.) 
  • Set reminders to notify you each time the balance is low, so your child is never caught without lunch money! 

School lunch just got easier! Bon appétit! 

To sign up for a MyPaymentsPlus account, visit www.MyPaymentsPlus.com. Click “Register a FREE account” and enter “Exchange” for the state. 

Apply for the Free and Reduced Meal program at www.aafes.com.

For more tips about living and traveling in Europe, check out our digital edition of Welcome to Europe on Stripes.com

Tags: School, lunch program, DODEA, MyPaymentsPlus, military kids, military families, free and reduced meal program, Exchange, AAFES
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