LANSING Federal funding that allowed schools to provide free meals to all students has run out, but some Lansing-area schools continue to provide free meals to all students.
During the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA implemented waivers that allowed schools across the country to offer free lunch and breakfast to all students, regardless of whether students and their families qualify based on income. The waiver has not been renewed for the 2022-23 school year, which means many students will once again have to pay for their school meals.
Because the waivers have expired, some schools, including Hult Public Schools, Charlotte Public Schools and Eaton Rapids Public Schools, have limited students’ access to free meals or ended the practice altogether.
For example, only students who qualify for free or reduced lunch are now getting no-charge or reduced-cost lunches at Charlotte High School, while all elementary school students in Charlotte get free breakfast and lunch. Eaton Rapids High School students only receive free breakfast, while all elementary students receive this benefit.
But some schools in the greater Lansing area are finding different ways to continue feeding students at no cost to students through different programs.
At Lansing Education School, all students will continue to receive free meals through Eligibility requirement for the communitya federal “no-price meal service option” for schools and school districts in low-income districts that allows schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all enrolled students.
Schools are reimbursed through the program based on a formula that takes into account the percentage of students who qualify for free meals based on their participation in other programs for low-income families, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families.
The district has set aside about $10.6 million under “food service activities” in this year’s budget, according to budget documents, but a portion of that will be paid for through the community eligibility provision.
The Lansing School District participated in the program even before the COVID-19 pandemic and through the program can continue to provide two nutritious meals each school day to the most vulnerable, and entire student body.
“It’s very important to our families,” said Judy Taratuta, general manager of SodexoMAGIC, which provides catering to the Lansing School District. “We know there are still a lot of food insecurity within our community. When they send their kids to school, they can get free breakfast and free lunch. It’s a way to help our families fight some inflation knowing that they will have a healthy meal when they are in The school “.
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The community eligibility requirement, through the USDA, allows schools and school districts in low-income areas to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to enrolled students without requiring them to complete applications.
In addition to covering all meals for all Lansing School District students, the program helps cover the cost of meals for other school districts.
Superintendent Mandy Stewart, at Charlotte Public Schools, said all students in development kindergarten through eighth grade receive free meals through the program.
Students in every building, except for the high school, at Eton Rapids Public Schools also receive free meals. Superintendent Bill DeFrance said all Eton Rapids High School students can get a free breakfast every school day, but not lunch, through the program.
Only students at Dimondale Elementary, Hope Middle School, and Sycamore Elementary in the Holt area receive free meals under a community eligibility requirement.
Grand Ledge Public Schools has resumed charging students for meals, except for those who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Students who do not receive free meals through the community eligibility requirement, whether it be lunch or breakfast, or both, can still apply for free or reduced meals. Eligibility based on family income.
For example, students in a family of four with an annual income of $51,338 or less are eligible for free meals, according to a Michigan Department of Education news release.
Families can contact their child’s school for more information about applying for free or discounted meals.
Contact Mark Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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