Universal free lunch program set to expire June 30th
In the coming days, many parents will need to start budgeting extra money to pay for their kids' school lunches.
Congress did not extend a universal program that allows all students to receive free meals.
During a time when costs only seem to get higher, superintendents and local food experts said this will have a drastic impact on families.
The program is set to expire on June 30th, which allows all students to receive a free breakfast and lunch.
"This is going to be a big impact and a big adjustment for us," Poland Superintendent Craig Hockenberry said, "and it's going to have a negative impact for a while until we get used to this again."
This universal program started during the pandemic, allowing schools to provide meal waivers efficiently for all kids, regardless of income.
With inflation impacting households, Hockenberry said there will be hundreds of students impacted in each district who rely on these meals.
"We're talking about hundreds of kids that were eating breakfast every single day at school for over two years," he said "Now all of a sudden, we're not doing that so it's going to be an adjustment."
Free or reduced lunches will still be available for qualified students, but there's a concern for the working families who do not meet the low-income threshold.
"Those kids that are on the bubble right now, the working families that now are paying a hundred dollars a pop for gas... the food at the grocery store is double," he said, "It's just another distraction that we don't need in schools."
For a family of four-plus students, this could cost thousands a year.
"It's going to add up and definitely with the rising cost in those groceries, it's going to be just as expensive to pack lunch," Sarah Worthington of the Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County said.
Valley Superintendents said they're hoping there will be new legislation to enable free meals this summer before kids get back to school.
"We know that kids enjoy eating those meals," Lakeview Superintendent Velina Jo Taylor said, "But we also know historically, they won't do that as much when costs are a question."