More than one out of every four children in the Alexandria City Public Schools is expected to participate in the city's free or reduced price meal program, according to figures released last week at the start of the school year.

The program, which is funded by the federal government, is available to children whose family size and income level qualify them for the free or reduced-price meals, or free milk, according to Dennis Leone, school spokesman.

Last year 2,952 children received free lunches, 333 received reduced-price lunches, 816 received free breakfasts and 44 received reduced-price breakfast, Leone said.

Last year about 12,000 students were enrolled in the school system, he said.

The program, which has been in existence since the 1940s, is designed to protect the privacy of children who participate, he said. This is done by permitting all children to purchase or receive their food tickets on week ahead of schedule, so there is no way someone on the food line can know who is and who is not receiving the aid.

According to Leone, the Alexandria school system is reimbursed by the federal government $387,758 for free lunches, $31,957 for reduced price lunches, $55,566 for free breakfasts, $2,493 for reduced-price breakfasts and $23,516 for free milk.

The school system absorbs 23 cents on the price of each meal, which costs 97 cents to prepare. It is the remaining 74 cents which is reimbursed by the Federal government, he said.

The following is the list of criteria that school officials use to determine eligibility for the program.