Universal free school lunches come to an end

School lunches will no longer be free for all students when the new school year begins in a few weeks.

When the COVID pandemic hit, the federal government took action to combat food insecurity among children by relaxing the rules of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program. The changes allowed schools to offer free meals to all students, regardless of their family’s financial status.

But when the federal government passed the country’s latest budget, it cut some of its pandemic-related spending. That included universal free meals next school year.

The result is that the National School Lunch Program will return to its pre-pandemic state. Once again, families will need to apply to participate in the program that offers free or reduced-price meals to students.

Children are automatically eligible for free meals if anyone in your household receives SNAP, TANF, or FDPRI benefits.

Homeless children, children in foster care, runaway youth, or children of migrant workers also qualify for free school meals when their household completes an application.

Children may also qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on your household income. The following are the maximum family incomes to receive benefits for the 2022-23 school year:

• $25,142: Household of one

• $33,874: Household of two

• $42,606: Household of three.

• $51,338: Household of four.

• $60,070: Household of five.

• $68,802: Household of six.

• $77,534: Household of seven.

• $86,266: Household of eight.

• $4,720 – Add for each additional family member.

Some high-poverty school districts may provide free lunches and breakfasts for all students through the community eligibility provision of the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.

In Berks County, the Reading School District and the Muhlenberg School District make use of the provision.

In other school districts, families who qualify must complete an application to participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program.

By district, how to apply

• Antietam: Information on how to apply for free or reduced price meals can be found at antietamsd.org/Page/739.

• Boyertown: Information on how to apply for free or reduced price meals can be found at boyertownasd.org/domain/40.

• Brandywine Heights: Information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals can be found at bhasd.org/page/food-services.

• Conrad Weiser: Applications for free and reduced-price meals can be found at schoolcafe.com.

• Daniel Boone: Applications for free and reduced-price meals can be found at schoolcafe.com/DBASD.

• Exeter: Information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals can be found at exetersd.org/food-services.

• Fleetwood: Information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals can be found at fleetwoodasd.k12.pa.us/administration/14.

• Governor Mifflin: Applications for free and reduced-price meals can be found at schoolcafe.com.

• Hamburg: Applications for free and reduced-price meals can be found at schoolcafe.com.

• Kutztown: You can find information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals at kasd.org/Page/29.

• Muhlenberg: Through the community eligibility provision of the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, all district students have access to free breakfasts and lunches. Students do not need to apply to qualify.

• Oley Valley: Information on how to apply for free or reduced price meals can be found at oleyvalleysd.org/food-nutrition-e23ed8cb.

• Reading: Through the community eligibility provision of the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, all district students have access to free breakfasts and lunches. Students do not need to apply to qualify.

• Schuylkill Valley: Information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals can be found at schuylkillvalley.org/domain/33.

• Tulpehocken: You can find information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals at tulpehocken.org/domain/11.

• Twin Valley: You can find information on how to apply for free or reduced-price meals at tvsd.org/departments/food-services.

• Wilson: Paper applications for free and reduced-price meals are included in packets sent to all families in the district before the start of the school year. Families can also apply online at wilsonsd.org/administration/food-service/free-reduced-meals-program.

• Wyomissing: Information about free and reduced-price meals can be found by visiting wyoarea.org and selecting food services under the departments tab.

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