Federal lunch waivers set to expire this month, Marshall County schools have nothing to worry about | New

School meals could soon cost you more. The federal program that provided free meals to students across the country during the pandemic is set to expire at the end of this month.

Federal waivers not only provided free meals to all students, but also reimbursed schools at a higher rate per meal. Marshall County Schools says the aid has been crucial because inflation has raised the price of everything.

“Not only are our food costs going up, but also the cost of our products like paper supplies, forks, napkins, plates that we actually eat on. So this past school year, the 2021-2022 school year , the USDA has increased our reimbursement that we receive for each meal and that has been able to offset the increased cost of food and supplies,” says Casey Partain, School Child Nutrition Program Supervisor of Marshall County

Federal aid is set to expire on June 30, which means school systems won’t be reimbursed as much for their food, even if prices go up.

While the school system hopes the USDA will extend the supplemental reimbursement, the end of federal school meal waivers will actually have no impact on families in Marshall County schools.

Marshall County students won’t pay a penny for school lunches next year.

“We know firsthand the hardships, what families are going through right now with rising gas and food prices, and that’s just one of the ways we’ve seen we can give back to our students. “, Partain explains.

She works hard to provide free meals to the approximately 5,700 students in the school system. “I try to reduce any waste and make sure we use production records and look at previous weeks to make sure we’re not overproducing food,” says Partain.

Even when federal school meal waivers expire, Marshall County schools will receive free meals through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), and parents don’t even have to apply. .

“We are entitled to free meals, breakfasts and lunches for all students without any application process,” she says.

The school system is eligible for the program because at least 40% of families are eligible for additional government assistance, such as food stamps. By participating in the CEP, families do not have to apply for free or reduced meals, saving the school system a lot of paperwork.

The school knows that a free lunch can go a long way for families as grocery bills keep mounting.

“Our grocery bill has gone up about 50% every week, and I’m buying the exact same foods. So every time there’s a break that can help a parent provide free meals for their kids, I hope they take advantage of it.” “, Partain explains.

The Marshall County school system has approximately 5,700 children enrolled and approximately 75% of them benefit from the school lunch program. Partain says that percentage has increased since they were able to offer free meals to everyone.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill to extend federal waivers through the upcoming school year. The main difference in the $3 billion package is that families would have to apply to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Congress has nine days to push the bill through the House and Senate before the federal waiver expires on June 30.

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