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School Meal Changes are coming for 2022-2023
Beginning in August 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture is no longer providing schools with funding to maintain free meals for all students during the school year. When school resumes this fall, families across the country will once again be required to pay full-price school meals or apply through their school district for free and reduced meals.
“We know that during the height of the pandemic, and even as it tapers off, free meals have been of great help to our community,” says Stillwater Public Schools Director of Nutrition Krista Neel. “They’ve helped family budgets, eliminated the daily worry of getting bagged lunches made and filled with healthy foods, and meant students that preferred home lunches were able to supplement their lunch with free fruits, vegetables, and milk.”
Funding for those free meals came from the USDA, Neal says. “We’d love to continue to provide free lunches, but funding just doesn’t allow that to happen. The district will be able to continue to support free breakfasts for all students in the coming school year, and we are excited about that.”
Full lunch prices for the fall will be $2.60 for elementary and $2.85 for secondary students, though not all students will need to pay that full price.
“We know budgets are tight with gas and home prices being what they are and with inflation on the rise,” she says. “I’m glad the government will continue to offer some support for school lunch funding.”
“There are a variety of factors that can affect whether a child qualifies for support,” Neal says. Children in foster care, runaways or homeless youth, children of migrant workers, and, of course, children in families under certain income limits which vary depending on the size of the family can all qualify. “So we encourage all families, regardless of income level, to complete a free and reduced meal application. If everyone in the district completes the paperwork, we can make sure we don’t miss anyone receiving that extra financial support.”
Those who qualify for reduced rates, will see lunch prices of $0.40 for both elementary secondary students. Some families will qualify for fully free lunches.
“One of the reasons we recommend everyone complete the form is to eliminate any stigma around completing the form,” says Neal. “We know income level can be a sensitive subject. If everyone is being asked to complete the form, there’s no reason to feel any sort of discomfort about being asked about it or completing it. You can complete it online, which is preferred, or via paper form at your school.”
Additionally, Neal says schools and districts may receive additional governmental support based on the number of students that qualify for free and reduced lunches. “Even if you think your family doesn’t qualify or your student doesn’t eat with us, please complete the application anyway. It just takes a moment, and you might be the one family that pushes us over the number needed to qualify for more grants and funding for Stillwater.”
SPS families can pay for meals or apply for free and reduced meals at: https://www.schoolcafe.com/StillwaterPS
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