Public School Lunches to cost parents money for first time since 2019-20 school year

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 2:49 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - The start of the school year is right around the corner, and with it comes some changes.

As life returns to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic, so does the public school lunch program. Starting this year, it will once again be the parents’ responsibility to cover paying for their child’s meals. Parents Your News Leader spoke to said the added cost of inflation has some of them worried.

One parent, who has three children attending the Williston Basin School District and asked to remain anonymous, said: “So many of us are having a hard time keeping groceries in the fridge and making ends meet. I am not sure where we will find the money to fund lunch accounts.”

The people in charge of preparing the meals are also worried about the change.

“I’m concerned moving back into this school year and having to charge for meals for families that may not qualify, but now they are going to have to pay for their meals, and will they be able to afford it? It is a big concern for me,” said Lynelle Johnson, food services director for Williston Basin School District #7.

For the past two years, the USDA provided waivers to public school districts, allowing them to cover all their meals for free. That benefit was not renewed for the 2022-23 school year.

In April, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and other democrats introduced legislation that would have extended the waivers, but there has not been any movement on the proposal.

“The Senator’s Support Kids Not Red Tape Act would provide a longer-term solution that would keep kids fed year-round at no cost to parents. He’ll keep pushing that through the Senate,” a Tester spokesperson said in a statement.

For now, Johnson recommends applying for free/reduced meals even if you’re not sure if you’ll qualify. Depending on the district, students may be denied or given a smaller meal if they develop a negative balance.

For more specific information on your district’s meal policy, contact the district office.

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