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Sign up for school lunch program by Sept. 1

The applications were mailed with postage paid return envelopes, but hundreds of Pasco County households have not sent in applications for free and reduced-priced school lunches or the 2001-02 school year.

Families have until Sept. 1 to turn in completed applications. Applications may be picked up at any Pasco County school or by calling the Food and Nutrition Services Department at (813) 794-2438 or (352) 524-2438 or (727) 774-2438, to receive one in the mail.

Many families mistakenly believe that school meals are provided free the first two weeks of school, or that if they were approved last year in another county or state they have a two-week grace period.

"This is not so," said Rick Kurtz, director of the services. "Only families that have an approved 2001-02 applications and families from Pasco schools with a free or reduced price status from 2000-01 can receive free or reduced price meals."

The service has changed its procedures for providing students an emergency meal when they do not have lunch money, an approved free status or a lunch from home. Elementary students are limited to three emergency meals, and secondary students are limited to one.

The food service program is under the auspices of the National School Lunch Program, the largest of the federal child nutrition programs in terms of children served. Meals comply with the Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act, and each lunch is designed to meet one third of the recommended nutrition guidelines.