How School Districts and Families Can Prepare for Free Meals Going Away
Posted on May 24, 2022
The federal government funding that started during the pandemic for free school meals in public schools will be ending on June 30, 2022. This means that an estimated 10 million children will lose access to free school meals, affecting families that may already be under financial pressure.
Currently only two states--California and Maine--will continue providing universal free school meals next school year due to the incredible measures their state legislators passed and state governors signed into law. Most schools will have to resume the traditional system, through which families could qualify for free meals, reduced/discounted priced meals or full priced meals. Families will again need to complete the school meal application process annually to determine their eligibility.
For many children, breakfast and lunch provided by their school are the only guaranteed meals they may have throughout the day. To reduce the likelihood of a child going hungry, it is important to keep families informed about the upcoming changes regarding school meal funding. Resources will differ across different states, and even districts within each state, but when districts and families work together, those who are suffering from food insecurity will get the help they need.
Upcoming Changes and Getting Prepared
During the pandemic, applications were not required for students to receive free meals at school. However, this will be phased out for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year. Many parents may have never filled out an application or gone through the process before, and therefore, may need some assistance along the way to take advantage of this resource for their children.
Due to this change, participation for free and reduced lunches is likely to decrease. Since food insecurity affects so many families, it is important that districts drive frequent and clear communication to them to give them the opportunity to take advantage of the available resources, should they need them.
How Families Can Combat Food Insecurity
Free and reduced meals are still available to those who qualify. Parents can visit their district’s website to find applications for these programs or contact their district’s administration office for direct guidance.
Some districts may even offer resources that go above and beyond. This could include low-cost healthy cooking classes in the area and links for SNAP benefits. Direction and resources may be available on the district websites, sent in an email blast or sent home on flyers with the students. Families should keep a watchful eye to see what their district and community are providing.
Families are encouraged to proactively request information if their district hasn’t shared information directly with their community.
School Districts Assisting the Community and Getting the Word Out
Many children started school during the pandemic. This means that their parents have never filled out an application to receive free or reduced meals. Making these resources and application processes easily accessible will make it much more likely for parents to ensure their child has everything they need for a healthy and successful upcoming school year.
Beyond the application process, districts can provide a multitude of resources specifically related to their area. The following resources can go a long way for families:
- Adding links to district website for SNAP resources.
- Food insecurity outreach programs.
- Community cooking events.
- Guidance flyers.
These resources differ depending on the area, so parents’ ability to access this information on their school district’s website will make it easier and more likely for them to participate.
A Story of Hope: Hamden Provides Cooking Instruction for Families in Their Community
Hamden Public Schools in Hamden, CT wanted to ensure that families in their community were properly nourished, so the district and Whitsons partnered to introduce two new programs to help promote and support healthy eating throughout the entire day for students and families. Hamden Middle School introduced a hot breakfast bar as part of their enhanced breakfast program to help ensure students start their day fueled for success. Instead of just picking up a granola bar, or nothing at all, students now have on-the-go options offered to them at the start of their day that are both filling and nutritious. “Cooking Matters Connecticut” is an additional evening program that provides instruction to families on cooking, nutrition and budgeting through a six-week collaborative cooking class. The partnership with Community Health Network of Connecticut Foundation provides the groceries for the meal, as well as one bag of groceries for the participants to take home to replicate the recipe or use the ingredients to make something healthy for their families.
Whitsons Considers You Family
Ensuring student success goes beyond what happens in the classroom. Students need to be well nourished at school and at home to perform their best. By providing these resources, many families may now be able to nourish their children with a healthy, well-balanced meal so that they feel their best coming into school.
With so much changing during the pandemic, Whitsons is here to be your consistent helping hand. We consider all our school districts and their community members a part of our family. We strive to make sure everyone is eating well-balanced meals throughout the day.
Our mission is to help as many communities as possible combat food insecurity with meals that fuel students for success.
Contact us today to discuss your district’s support for community members in preparation of the upcoming school year.