What Happens When Federal Funding For School Meals Ends?

Meal programs in public schools are becoming more expensive because of inflation, supply chain issues and rising labor costs. And the federal funding that paid for universal free school meals during the pandemic has ended, which means schools in many states are passing the bills on to parents.

Many families that don’t qualify for free and reduced meals for their children are struggling to afford to pay the full price for those meals. The program cost is usually based on parents’ gross income and family size, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, but does not account for medical bills or the cost of living or the increasing cost of groceries.

Many families that don't qualify for free and reduced meals for their children are struggling to afford to pay the full price for those meals.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Elena Medoks
Many families that don’t qualify for free and reduced meals for their children are struggling to afford to pay the full price for those meals.

The requirement for SNAP eligibility in Florida is limited to people who do not have more than a total of either $2,001 or $3,001 – depending on their age and disabilities – in their savings and checking accounts. Americans in other states need just as much help but can’t get it. These pressures have pushed millions more people to food pantries in recent years, the Associated Press reports.

The USDA estimates that food prices are about 10% higher than just a year ago, and will increase an additional 5% to 6% more. To help schools continue to pay for their meals, the Keep Kids Fed Act increases reimbursement rates for school food purchases, but funding for this program also ends in September 2023.

The USDA estimates that food prices are about 10% higher than just a year ago, and will increase an additional 5% to 6% more.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Photographee.eu
The USDA estimates that food prices are about 10% higher than just a year ago, and will increase an additional 5% to 6% more.

Few states have support for school meal programs in place after 2023. This could lead to American families being forced into debt to pay for school meals, and children going hungry during their formative ears, The Guardian reports.

As Feeding America reports, a staggering 1 in 8 kids in the United States faces hunger, which impacts their ability to focus and learn in school.

At least 1 in 8 kids in the United States faces hunger, which impacts their ability to focus and learn in school.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Stanislaw Mikulski
At least 1 in 8 kids in the United States faces hunger, which impacts their ability to focus and learn in school.

“Kids who don’t get enough to eat — especially during their first three years — begin life at a serious disadvantage,” the Feeding America website states. “Children facing hunger are more likely to be hospitalized and they face higher risks of health conditions like anemia and asthma. And as they grow up, kids who missed meals are more likely to have problems in school and other social situations.”

According to Children Incorporated, 5 out of 6 kids who rely on free or reduced-price school meals aren’t getting free meals in the summer. Further, for every 100 school lunch programs, there are only 87 breakfast sites, and just 36 summer food programs.

We must ensure that all schoolchildren get the nutrition they need to learn and thrive.

Children facing hunger are more likely to be hospitalized and they face higher risks of health conditions like anemia and asthma.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Elena Medoks
Children facing hunger are more likely to be hospitalized and they face higher risks of health conditions like anemia and asthma.

Help make sure our children have access to healthy, nutritious foods by asking Congress to strengthen child nutrition programs, especially those that help feed children during the summer months when they away from school and are harder to reach.

Click below and help us tell Congress to extend the Keep Kids Fed Act!

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