Friday, September 29, 2023

Pandemic-era free lunch for all program set to end


Congress will not renew the funding for a school meal program that provided free meals to every public school student in the US, no matter what the family’s income level was, leaving many families wondering if their kids will be able to eat well at school after September 30, when the pandemic-related program officially ends.

“Families across the country are facing a very difficult reality of having to choose between feeding their kids or filling up their gas tank or purchasing medicine,” the Associated Press quoted Vince Hall, chief government relations officer for Feeding America, a nonprofit network of food banks, as saying.

Rules for federal funding will revert to their pre-pandemic state. In general, families will be required to apply for their children to receive free or reduced-price lunch, and the determination will be based on their income. Schools in predominantly low-income areas will still be allowed to serve breakfast and lunch to everyone for free, as before, using the so-called community option.

State lawmakers in California and Maine have made free meals permanent for public school students, and in Vermont, they’ll be provided for the next school year. Colorado voters will decide on universal free lunches in November, and a bill in the Massachusetts legislature, which would provide free lunches for another year in the state, survived a conference committee and was signed into law last month.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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