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Families brace for changes to pandemic-era free school meals

Free School Meals
Posted at 8:39 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 10:25:43-04

The pandemic-era federal aid that made school meals available for free to all public school students — regardless of family income levels — is ending, raising fears about the effects in the upcoming school year for families already struggling with rising food and fuel costs.

A bill signed by President Joe Biden over the weekend is intended to allow summer meal distributions to remain widely available for students. It also gives higher reimbursement for meals to schools while providing some flexibility to help them deal with increasing food prices and supply chain issues. Several states have taken it upon themselves to keep school meals free for all.

“We make just too much money (literally by just a few dollars) to qualify for free or reduced lunches and other food-related benefits, but not enough to truly ever feel financially comfortable,” Kate Murphy, a mother of four and administrator at a trust company, said.

“Families across the country are facing a very difficult reality of having to chose between feeding their kids or filling up their gas tank or purchasing medicine,” said Vince Hall, chief government relations officer for Feeding America, a nonprofit network of foodbanks.

“It’s disappointing that the extension of the summer waivers would come so late that for the most part, they’re not going to be able to stem the dramatic loss in summer meal sites that are happening this summer,” said Anore Horton, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont.