The end may be near for a program that provided millions of free meals to School kids during the pandemic. School Districts and Organizations providing food are scrambling. With the onset of COVID in early 2020, the Federal Agriculture Department began sponsoring a waiver program for the cost of school meals to help keep kids fed regardless of their family’s economic background, especially with man Schools closed and Students not having access to school meals.
Funding for the Federal Program now expected to be cut at the end of next month, with meal providers worried about kids going hungry. Mel Curtis of the Centre County YMCA Anti-Hunger Program saying: “We were instructed to go back to the same way we were in 2019, prior to COVID. Basically, what that means is that every area we go into, we have to qualify that area. It has to be an area that has, potentially, 50% of the children receiving free or reduced meals at School during 2019.”
Early on, it was expected that Congress would extend the waiver program for one more year. Now, alternate plans are being made. Curtis adding: “During COVID, since we did not have to qualify an area, we were able to reach more children. Say we were going into areas of State College and feeding children who were in need of food. As it stands now, those areas are not going to qualify this year.”
For School Districts, the waivers were crucial in providing a higher level of reimbursement per meal, and those meals are already costing more with the increase in prices for food and meal items.