Free school meals not included in federal spending bill

Some school districts in Kentucky may require students to pay for lunch after June 30th

LEXINGTON, KY (WTVQ) – A $1.5 trillion dollar federal spending bill signed by President Joe Biden could hurt some families in Kentucky, including families whose students depend on receiving free meals at school, according to officials.

Child nutrition waivers were originally created during the pandemic to take stress off families; however, the waivers were not included in the budget proposal so the benefits are expected to expire June 30, 2022.  What that means is some children will once again have to pay for school lunch.

The Mercer County Public School system is depending on a few of the waivers to get the district through due to supply chain issues and food shortages.  The district says it serves about 2,200 lunches and 2,000 breakfasts daily.

Chris Minor, the district’s food service director says the children who benefit from the waiver are low-income and it gives them and their parents the peace of mind of knowing where the next meal is coming from, which is at school.

“Parents are working as hard as they can right now to be able to put food on the table as it is. For the past year and a half to two years, we’ve had some families that have depended on us to help them out on that.  For us not to be able to do that, it makes us sad for the kids because we’re there for them, but we also see the stress in the parents eyes when it comes to this as well,” said Minor.

Minor says his students in Mercer County fall under the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) program, so he’ll still be able to feed his students at no cost to them.  After June 30, 2022, Minor says other school districts will have to go back to charging for at school meals, which could result in some kids falling through the cracks.

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