Free and reduced school lunch applications now online

VINELAND – The school district is not mailing out free or price-reduced lunch applications this year, instead it’s asking parents/guardians to apply online.

This is another online service the district can now offer through PCS Revenue Systems, the district’s food service accounting software, said Helen Haley, the district’s business administrator.

Previously, the school district included an application with a parent notification letter about the lunch program. When the applications came back, she said, the information was cross-referenced with the district’s student database and manually typed in by staff.

Now, the applications will be electronically entered, she said.

About 6,000 students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, said Purvesh Patel, the Sodexo food service director for Vineland Public Schools.

Parents fill out one electronic application per household, Patel said, noting the applications are available in English and Spanish.

The online applications are available by clicking here:

https://paypams.com/OnlineApp.aspx

“People can do it on their phone it is so easy,” Haley said.

It’s a secure website and a Social Security number is not requested on the application, Patel said. The school district processes the applications, which are then subject to review by State of New Jersey auditors to prevent fraud.

The online application process is an expansion of the district’s PayPams program.

Last year, the district used it to roll out an online application that allows parents to use credit cards to prepay for student lunches, set spending limits for their children and monitor their child’s school lunch purchases.

Going to an online system saves the district labor, paper and bulk mailing costs, Haley said. It also improves accuracy, she said, noting any discrepancies caught during a state review are noted in the district’s annual audit.

The free and reduced-price lunch application is now available online. Parents are urged to submit applications by Sept. 15.

If you’re not sure you qualify, the link does include an income eligibility chart.

The application does request a student identification number but parents do not need to include that at this time and can proceed with the application, Patel said.

Parents will receive a confirmation number when they’ve successfully completed the application.

The school board did vote earlier this month to raise the price of a school lunch.

An elementary school lunch will cost $2.65 and middle/high school lunches will run $2.80 when students return to school in September. However, the price of a reduced lunch remained steady at 40 cents.

For parents who do not have access to a computer or prefer not to file online, paper applications are available at each school or the food service office at 688 N. Mill Road, at the rear of Wallace Intermediate School.

Food service staff will be available 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday at the food service office at Wallace School to help anyone with the application, Haley said.

“This is a great process, it streamlines everything,” Patel said. “If you enter data incorrectly, it will notify you right away that it’s incorrect, so it won’t delay the process and the application.”

Deborah M. Marko; (856) 563-5256; dmarko@gannettnj.com DEBORAH M. MARKO, @dmarko_dj 11:16 a.m. EDT August 21, 2015

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