CHARLESTON — Children who are homeschooled or attend private schools that don’t use the National School Lunch Program aren’t eligible for the previously announced roughly $313 per-child groceries relief, even if their families apply for it.
Only 15 private schools in West Virginia participate in the federal lunch program, and those schools contain only about 3,150 of the state’s 11,350 private schoolers, according to numbers from the state Department of Education.
Department spokeswoman Christy Day said the homeschool numbers are harder to ascertain due to a state law change. As of 2016, after which the numbers get more murky, there were over 11,000 of them.
A majority of students in West Virginia — more than an estimated 230,000 of them — will receive the relief money by the end of June without their families having to apply, the state announced earlier this month.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act says children are eligible if they already qualified for free or reduced-price lunch when school buildings were open, and would’ve been receiving those meals had schools not shuttered.
Regarding students who weren’t eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a state Department of Education news release said they could apply online to become eligible, and the Charleston Gazette-Mail included that in a previous report.
But Day, in response to questions from the newspaper after some homeschool parents had their applications denied, wrote in an email that, even if they apply, homeschool families don’t qualify.
Neither do private school students whose schools don’t take part in the federal lunch program, which is mostly used by public schools.
Day said the application process at schoolcafe.com is instead for families “that didn’t qualify for free/reduced-price meals prior to COVID-19, but they believe they now would qualify (perhaps there has been a loss of income — and they now feel if school was in session — they would qualify for free/reduced-price meals).”
Among other places, ineligible families with hungry kids, and other hungry people, can visit rapidresponsewv.org and click on the “I need help” request button, and they can visit the WV Food ER 2020 group on Facebook.
Families with hungry kids of any type — homeschool, private or public — can search for free summer meal locations at https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.