NEOSHO, Mo. — Every student in an entire district receiving free or reduced lunches is a great thing… Until it isn’t.

And that looming issue is something the Neosho School District is worried about. Pandemic financial help for school districts to pay for every child’s lunch has been helpful — but since it’s currently automatic, free or reduced lunch applications have fallen by the wayside.

Now, administrators need parents and guardians who qualify, to apply for their normal free or reduced lunches. Last year, more than 2,600 students turned in applications… But this year, only 1,800 have filled out the form. Neosho is considered a “high-poverty” school, with usually more than 50% qualified, which helps with many funding resources that the district can apply for.

That includes loan forgiveness for teachers after five years, and waivers for students for test fees like the ACT. Students can also apply for certain scholarships. And, funding for some learning materials, instructional coaches, and professional development is based on the percentage of students who apply for those free or reduced lunches.

But, if those application are not turned in on time, the school district could miss out on more than $1.2 million of state funding this year.

“It’s great that our students and their parents aren’t having to deal with how to pay for lunches right now. So, it’s really more of a mechanical issue. We just need to get them in so that some of these other issues that are tied to your free and reduced lunch percentage aren’t impacted negatively,” said Dr. Jim Cummins, Neosho Schools Superintendent.

To help encourage and remind parents and guardians to apply, the district is spending 2,500 dollars worth of visa gift cards to hand out. Every parent who fills out their application will be entered into the drawing — 50 winners will be chosen.

The application deadline for free or reduced lunches is 3:30 pm on Monday, December 13th at your respective school’s office. Mailed applications must be postmarked by December 6th.