Schools working to sign up families for free and reduced lunch, as federal program expires

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 7:05 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Schools have been serving free meals through a federal program due to the pandemic, but those free breakfasts and lunches end next month since a federal USDA program is expiring on June 30th.

Congress could extend the program, which had an original purpose to keep kids fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple school districts are currently working to sign up parents for free and reduced lunch programs since the program is ending.

According to data from the Iowa Department of Education, around 57% of students in the Cedar Rapids Community School District receive a free or a lower-priced lunch.

A lower percentage of students receive a free or cheaper lunch at the Center Point-Urbana and Vinton-Shellsburg Community School Districts. Both districts are encouraging families to sign-up for the program through posts on Facebook and by placing the application online.

Kyle Koeppen, who is the superintendent for the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District, said his district is putting the application with the application parents fill out when registering their child for school. He said school districts could lose money if people don’t fill out the application.

“It costs hundreds and thousands of dollars over the course of the year to purchase the commodities and the food to bring into the district,” Koeppen said. “And if we’re not being reimbursed for that, then it’s not sustainable to pay for the food at hand.”

He said there is also no guarantee children are able to eat breakfast or follow nutrition guidelines if they are bringing a lunch from home.

Christin Maiers, who is a parent in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, said she has saved around $1,300 from the program over the last two years. She said those savings are possibly going away as well, which means less money to pay bills.

“That money is going to take away from my kids,” Maiers said. “It’s going to mean we can’t do soccer in the fall or my daughter doesn’t do dance like she wants to do in the summer.”

She said she doesn’t qualify to apply for a free or reduced-price lunch for her kids at school.

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