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How to apply for SNAP and free/reduced meals

By Christy Avery

The bell rings, and bellies rumble. Students rush excitedly out of class to the cafeteria, looking forward to a hot lunch and a break to refuel and chat with friends. Later, they might order pizza, get fast food, or cook with their families. Each evening, everyone is able to go to bed with a full stomach.

For many people across America, this is the reality; a second thought is never given to whether or not they will enjoy three meals that day. But for some financially-insecure families, food—whether served at school or at home—is not as easy to come by. 

Many families across America live in poverty: 39.7 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 estimate. There are many reasons for this, such as high costs of living, low income, medical expenses, unemployment, and lack of benefits. Making ends meet can be difficult for households, and basic needs such as food can be increasingly expensive.

Because of this, governments and schools offer assistance. The most well-known and widely-used programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—otherwise known as food stamps—and the National School Lunch Program. These services offer approved households with benefits, such as an EBT card with money that families can use to buy food, or free or reduced school meals to keep children who live in struggling households from going hungry as they get their education.

Assistance programs support a multitude of people each year; in 2018 alone, SNAP served 40 million Americans (according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), and the National School Lunch Program provided free/reduced meals to 29.7 million children daily, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Although crucial, these services can be difficult to navigate. The Bagpiper has compiled separate guides on how to use each. 

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SNAP: A Guide on How to Receive Government Assistance 

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1 in 10 Indiana residents receive SNAP each year. But how do families in need begin the process of receiving funds, and what happens throughout? 

First, families need to know if they are eligible to receive SNAP. Benefits are not freely given to anyone; hopeful recipients must meet certain guidelines in order to be approved. 

To be eligible, households must usually: 

-have a gross monthly income at or below 130% of the poverty line

-have no more than $2,500 in assets. Assets are resources that can be used to purchase food, such as extra money in bank accounts or savings. However, if a household includes an elderly or disabled person, assets may be up to $3,500

Applicants should also know that: 

If an adult applicant is unemployed, childless and able-bodied, they can still receive SNAP benefits—however, these benefits are normally limited to a period of 3 months every 3 years. 

After reviewing eligibility guidelines, there are important items that must be prepared before an application can be filled out. 

Applicants will need:

-The names, dates of birth, citizenship status and Social Security numbers of everyone in the home. Note that citizenship status does not normally factor into whether someone is eligible or not.

-Income received by each person in the household

-Proof of shelter expenses such as a recent rent receipt or utility bill

-(if applicable) Proof of child support 

-(if applicable) Proof of medical expenses not covered by insurance, such as prescriptions, co-payments or premiums for the elderly or disabled

Where can applications be found?

Applications can be found in a variety of places. The most common method is to apply online at fssabenefits.org, but those without computer access or who prefer a paper copy can also:

-print an application at fssabenefits.org

-call Indiana Family and Social Services at 800-403-0864

-visit their local Division of Family Resources office 

-Request to have an application mailed to their home 

Applications can be turned in online, by mail or at a local SNAP office. Depending on the state, faxed or emailed applications may be accepted. 

What happens after applying?

After receiving an application, the state agency or SNAP office will process it. This can take up to 30 days. 

Within that month, applicants will participate in another important step: an eligibility interview. This is completed over the phone or in person; applicants can usually choose. The purpose of this interview is to further examine each individual or household’s case and to verify information. Applicants are typically asked about their household, income status, and “other pertinent information needed to determine eligibility” (in.gov).

Once the interview is completed, hopeful applicants will receive notification by mail regarding their eligibility status and whether they receive benefits or not. 

What if an applicant is accepted?

If accepted, participants in the SNAP program will receive benefits within the 30 days from the date they turned the application in. EBT cards, PIN numbers, and other important information will be mailed. 

What if an applicant is not approved, but feel they should be? 

An appeal can be made by contacting the local office or agency where the application was submitted.

How is SNAP used?

Food stamps are no longer paper coupons; today, money is loaded onto an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. These cards work like debit cards and can be used at any grocery store, as well as some farmers’ markets and other establishments. Benefits are refilled automatically each month. 

Be aware that EBT cards can only be used to purchase food, and that they cannot be used to purchase certain items such as:

-alcohol 

-tobacco products

-hot food 

-any prepared food intended for immediate, on-premise consumption (such as fast food).

How much assistance will households receive?

Amounts of benefits are based on level of need. How much a household or individual gets will depend on household size, income and other factors. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2017 the average SNAP household received about $254 per month. The average recipient or individual received about $126. In both cases, this averages out to approximately $1.40 per person per meal.

SNAP can be the difference between healthy and hungry. However, even with the extra assistance, making ends meet and putting food on the table can be difficult. 

Here are some tips to stretch SNAP dollars and make the most out of benefits:

-compare prices of items at different stores

-consider making loose meal plans

-buy in bulk when possible

-consider using coupons to lower shopping costs 

-stock up on canned foods, beans, lentils, and other filling, cheap foods that provide multiple servings in one unit

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National School Lunch Program: How Children Can Receive Free or Reduced Lunches

Proper nutrition is essential to education. At most schools, breakfast and lunch are served, making it easy for students to stay full throughout the day. However, these meals cost, and many families struggle to purchase them as the cost of living adds up. Millions of children and families benefit from free or reduced breakfasts/lunches each year due to the National School Lunch Program. 

There are a couple of ways children can be eligible. Children can eat at a lower price or free if:

-household income is within the limits on the Federal Income Guidelines -Children can also be approved through “Direct Certification.” This means that families who already receive benefits from programs such as SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANP) are automatically eligible for free meals. School districts use information from the state Social Security department to certify students for Direct Certification.

If a child is pre-approved, a letter will be mailed to the home at the start of the school year. 

If not pre-approved, an application must be filled out. Applications are now primarily online. For New Albany-Floyd County students, they can be found at NAFCSnutrition.com; applications and information for other school districts can be found on the school corporation’s site.

Before filling out the application, families will need:

-gross income (income received before taxes) for ALL household members, even if non-related. Include income earned by children such as child support.

-if receiving assistance from a government program, the household’s case number will be needed

-a pen with black ink; pencil is not permitted

-Social Security numbers of all children and adults 

It is important to fill out the application thoroughly. Households only need to fill out one application for all children in the home.

After sending in the application, households will be notified of their children’s status by mail. Eligibility guidelines change each year, so unless a household is pre-approved, an application must be filled out each school year. 

After approval, what are the benefits?

Those receiving free meals can get a standard breakfast and lunch with no cost, every day. 

Those receiving reduced meals will be charged 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. While meal prices vary by state and school, reduced meal prices are equal across the nation.

Textbook Benefits

In many school districts, including NAFCS, the benefit of receiving free or reduced meals extends beyond the lunchroom. The cost of education also does. Textbook expenses are billed to families each year, and are often hundreds of dollars. 

Floyd Central bookkeeper Amy Romines said that even if a family can afford to pay for meals, “where people get into trouble is book rental. They might get hammered with a three hundred dollar bill. With someone living on low wages, that’s gonna be almost insurmountable.” 

However, Romines said that if someone qualifies for free/reduced lunches in the state of Indiana, they also receive reduced textbook costs. 

“If they’re having issues with one or the other [lunches or textbooks], they’re usually eligible for [assistance with] the other.”

For more information on how to receive textbook assistance, contact the school.

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Pro baseball is making changes

By J.D. McKay

This summer I began working for the Louisville Bats Ground Crew. It is a pretty sweet job, and I am having a lot of fun, but that is not the point. Baseball is evolving. I am sure that anyone who follows sports has heard something like this: “Baseball fans are dying,” or “baseball is boring and losing popularity.” Baseball has heard them, especially minor leagues, and is making changes.

One change is making uniforms fun and entertaining for fans. The MLB has recently started a players weekend where players are allowed to wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys. Plus, they wear special Mother’s Day, Veterans Day, Father’s Day and Fourth of July hats and uniforms.

The Minor Leagues have not stopped at those holidays to wear special uniforms. On May 4 they often wear Star Wars uniforms to celebrate May the Fourth be with you. One new very cool thing most of the MILB is doing is adding Copa de la Diversion uniforms. They take their team’s typical uniforms, and make it something from Spanish-speaking culture. For example, the Delmarva Shorebirds are becoming the Gallos de Delmarva, meaning the Roosters of Delmarva. The Bats are becoming the Murciélagos de Louisville and wearing them on June 28. Those uniforms will make the game a little more fun, and you will get to see me dragging the field between the fourth and fifth innings. The Bats also introduced the Louisville Mashers last year and the Derby City Mint Juleps this year. Both uniforms have dope hats and jerseys.

The MILB also introduced a pitch timer in 2015. If it took a pitcher more than 20 second to pitch, a ball was called without throwing a pitch. This fixed some things, but it did not always fix the problem. For example, if I am at a game, it will inevitably take four hours, even with the timer. However, just last Tuesday, I was at a game that took one hour and 59 minutes. So the timer can be successful.

The last change is the amount of dingers hit. It is wild. Homers are being hit at an alarming rate over the past two years and into this year. There are several explanations for this. One is that bat angles are changing, accounting for more strikeouts but also more homeruns. Another part is that athletes are getting bigger, faster, and stronger, so that probably accounts for it. The last, partial conspiracy is that baseballs are being made differently. Some people say that baseballs are being made basically to add more pop. That seems unlikely to me, but it is certainly possible. Pro baseball has denied that a lot.

Baseball can certainly do more to be more interesting, it could add a DH to the NL. That is kind of a lame idea that real baseball fans like myself disagree with, but small fans might like that more. They could also play fewer games. That is unlikely, but it could happen if the game was truly collapsing.

All in all, baseball will not ever completely die. It is the first sport many Americans play, so that feeling of their first home run will always stick with them. I am sure that some parts will change over my life, and I am looking forward to seeing what. But right now, baseball is evolving at all levels.

 

Proposal could allow track athletes chance to advance into state tournament

Photo By Sophia Perigo

Story By J.D. McKay

As this track season has gone by, I have been grinding every day. The hard work has shown. This year, I have increased my personal record (PR), and have been very close to breaking it several times. I won the Corydon Stargazer Invite where I PRed. But I was always just waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for my competition season to end and the start of my practice to be an alternate season to begin.

I am happy to say that senior Cam Sturgeon will be all-state and could win state, and senior Austin Gootee is finally hitting the throws he should be and has a shot to get to state as well. But I am kind of frustrated.

In Indiana, track sectionals allows for two athletes in each event. That basically makes it sound like the little schools have a chance against the big schools. In track, the top eight score in each event. First place gets 10, second 8, third 6, fourth 5, until eighth gets 1 point. In practice they really do not have a chance but in theory they do. This gives the appearance of even competition because if each school has the same number of athletes entered, anyone could win. But, the school with the biggest athlete pool always wins. The top four from each sectional advance to regionals.

So now that the rules have been explained, I will explain my problem. I am the third discus thrower on my team, so I cannot throw in sectionals. However, I am the also the third best thrower in our sectional. Meaning that we could get first, second, and third in discus at sectional and send three throwers to regionals. I even have a low chance of going to state. However, I will not get that chance.

Here are a couple of solutions to my problem. First, set a cut off mark for all events. If the athlete hits that mark at any meet, he or she is in sectionals. If a school only has one athlete at that mark then they can have a second athlete in that event. That would allow for all qualified athletes to get their chance to advance into the state tournament. However, that solution would make it less even between big and small schools. To even out the competition, only allow two athletes to score from each school in each event. Basically, if I got third behind Sturgeon and Gootee, I would still go to regionals, but I would not score points for the team.

Track is both an individual and team sport. So changing the rules should not make the team part uneven. However, since it is also an individual sport, all athletes that are qualified to compete in the biggest meets of the year should get the chance. I believe my suggestion could allow for both.

 

Athletes power through busy schedules

By J.D. McKay

On each Friday night this upcoming fall, I will be taking the field ready to play against whomever the opponent may be. That will probably be the only time many of my readers will ever see me performing. Some may see me on a Tuesday night or Saturday morning in the spring throwing the 1.6 kilogram discus. But the number who see me do that is far lower. However, these two events and daily practice is probably all that they think goes into my sport. That is not true, and I will try to walk through the schedule many athletes, including myself, have to deal with.

School starts ridiculously early, earlier than the typical 9-5 job, at 7:40 a.m. That means that to be on time we need to wake up by at least 7 a.m., probably earlier. Some athletes, like senior thrower Austin Gootee, live in places like Lanesville. These athletes have to wake up earlier to account for the long drive. Some of us also have to get up before school for workouts. Strength coach Donnie Gumble runs a weight lifting team that practices before school, and the swim team often has practices starting at 6 a.m.

After getting to school, we go through almost a seven-hour school day. That includes activities that can wear us out. Some of these activities including tests, presentations, and weight lifting class. If I just finished a very tough school day, going to practice can be a drag.

After a seven-hour school day, I have practice. That can last until nearly 7 p.m. in the beginning of football season. However, typically practices end around 6 p.m. or a little before. This makes players tired after a long school day.

When we finally get home, typically around 6:15 p.m., some things still need to happen. Dinner needs to be eaten to stay at the top of our game. Showers need to be taken, so our mothers do not kill us. Let us just say after all this it is 7 p.m. on a typical night. Then comes homework. It could take four-plus hours for some of the tougher schedules, but in general it is probably closer to two hours. That means after everything for school is done, it is 9 p.m. If you add some extra studying in, that time becomes 9:30.

After this, if I was very responsible, I would brush my teeth and go to bed. But, I am in high school and social media, Netflix, and Clash of Clans are all appealing after going pretty hard for 14 hours. If I account for a very conservative 30 minutes for other entertainment, I am in bed by 10 p.m. Which is pretty good, giving me eight hours of sleep if I am up by 6 the next day. However, if I am feeling particularly irresponsible, or procrastinate a project, it is closer to 10:30 or 11 p.m. Seven hours of sleep may sound like a decent amount, but sleep is one of the most important parts of athletics. It lets those muscles really rest after a long day of workouts, school, and practice.

This is does not improve much on the weekends. Often, Saturday mornings are meet days or early practice days. Sundays are our only days off, and often I and the other athletes who want to be successful go out and find time to practice or workout. Even out of season this schedule is hectic with workouts getting in the way.

Athletes are not the only people at FC to have crazy schedules. Students who take all AP classes or IB classes have a crazy hard schedule that gives a lot of work. We may not even have the hardest schedule as theater puts in crazy hours, including Sundays, to practice. Next time you see any other athlete or me performing, know that it was not just a two-hour practice and seven hour school day that got us to that point. It took a lot of hard work and mental toughness that allowed FC athletes to perform at a high level.

Q&A with School Nurse Melissa Eldridge

By Natalie Clare

  1. Why are vaccinations important?
    1. Vaccinations are important because they keep us from getting sick.  The diseases that we have vaccinations for can ultimately kill people. They’re deadly and fatal and very contagious. They can spread and wipe out certain groups of people. Vaccinations are important ultimately to keep our population going, to keep the human race going.
  2. Do you believe vaccinations are necessary? Why or why not?
    1. I do. I’m definitely for vaccinations. I understand that some people have allergies or medical conditions where it’s not supportive that they have vaccines. I understand religious objections, those are very personal and individualized. But, I think if you are physically able to get vaccinated and it doesn’t go strongly against your beliefs, then I believe everybody should get vaccinated. In the long run, that’s what is keeping people healthy and at their optimum level.
  3. Why are students required to get vaccinations in order to come to school?
    1. Currently, there is a mumps outbreak and meningitis is coming back. They said on the news this morning that Indiana University of Bloomington has a mumps outbreak. Because we are all in such close quarters, you have to think that they are almost 2000 people in this building that are coming in contact every single day. Things spread very easily in this environment because we are all very close. Same thing with colleges, you’ve got dorms and other close quarters. So, if one person were to get a contagious disease, it’s going to be no time at all and the majority of us are probably going to have because we come in contact one way or another. If it’s not direct contact, it’s airborne or continental contact, like touching the same desks and door knobs.
  4. Can parents request to not have their child vaccinated? How? Why?
    1. Absolutely. Parents can fill out regions objection forms or they can go to a doctor and get a medical objection form. If it is against their beliefs or they have some type of medical reason that they can’t get a vaccine. They always have the option to object. But, according to our school policy, if we were to have an outbreak of something and a student wasn’t vaccinated, we would have the right to exclude them. More than anything, for their safety. It’s kind of a risk if you choose to not be vaccinated. Be aware of the risks that your are putting yourself at a chance at getting a contagious disease. Although, chicken pox isn’t necessarily a deadly disease, but you have more serious diseases like polio or meningitis.
  5. Can you really become sick by getting vaccinated? Or is that just a myth?
    1. I think it depends. I know that there are a lot of people that are anti-vaccine and talk about how they increase your risk for autism or other things. There is a small chance. You occasionally hear of somebody having an adverse reaction to a vaccine, especially if it’s a live vaccine. Which is where they do inject a small amount of the virus in you. But again, they take precautions. They always take precautions when giving vaccines, like if you’ve been sick or have recently had the flu, you’re doctor should say that this is not the right time to get a vaccine because you might be putting yourself at risk for getting sick. It’s very rare for someone to get sick after having a vaccine or contracting autism. I’ve never seen a huge amount of evidence to say that vaccines cause this, this, and this. Vaccines are here to prevent, not to cause other things. People talk about getting sick after having a vaccine, or contracting something. This is rare, it’s the exception not the rule.
  6. Are there any vaccinations that aren’t required but recommended?
    1. Right now, the CDC has recommended meningitis B, which protects against another strand of meningitis. You’re required to have your two meningitis vaccines. Because you have all of these kids that are going off to college, their going to new environments, they’re living in dorm rooms, and in close contact, you’re putting yourself at a greater risk at picking up a communicable disease. So Men. B is recommended and HPV is recommended based on research.
  7. Will the school be having a vaccination clinic? When? Where?
    1. Our vaccination clinic is Tuesday, April 23rd. It’s offered to juniors becoming seniors. This gives them an opportunity to get up to date on the required vaccines for their senior year, like the second dose of meningitis and the two Hep. A vaccines.