Back when the pandemic started, Congress passed a bill for school lunch waivers. This allowed any child to access school meals without having to pay/prove eligibility. Prior to this, school meals were either full price, reduced price, or free. Families needed to apply for the reduced price and free meals. And many children who ‘qualified’ for reduced price meals couldn’t afford them, and often went without.
This waiver was set to expire on June 30, 2022—unless it was extended. And, as the deadline got closer, it sounded like it would expire.
Although a complete extension of the waivers did not have full support in congress, a bipartisan compromise was agreed on. The amended legislation is called the Keep Kids Fed Act. Here’s what’s included:
- Fewer children will have access to school meals
- School districts will still receive funding for school meals, but at lower rates
- Families need to apply for the school meals program
- Children who only qualify for reduced-price meals will need to pay for them (during the pandemic they were free)
- School who can’t meet federal nutrition requirements (which are becoming harder because of supply chain problems and labor shortages) can have the usual penalties waived
Schools and non-profits continue to have some choice in where they distribute summer meals. They can also give grab-and-go meals, instead of requiring that kids eat their meals on site. And they can pick up more than one meal at the same time.
We know that school meal programs across the country were concerned about whether they could continue to operate without sufficient funding. So, for those children who will access meals, this is a good thing.
But the problems that occurred before the waiver are not resolved. Some children will avoid asking for their free/reduced meals because they don’t want to be seen as poor. And children who only qualify for reduced price meals still need to have money in their accounts. With the additional financial strain on so many families, this will be a problem.
What we’re left with is a bit of a tricky situation. Of course, we’re grateful for any support provided to hungry children. But no child should go hungry! We know the stress that hunger creates in children. And we know that the long-term impact of childhood hunger is vast.
And we need your help. Providing backpacks of food for children is something we can do without restriction—as long as we have the resources! We need donations of food, money, and time so we can feed more needy children.
For all of you who support Agape Meals for Kids, THANK YOU!!! We are feeding children who might otherwise spend the weekend without food. That’s an amazing gift to give a child, and we can do it because of you.