Now that universal free and reduced meals are no longer in effect, parents and guardians whose households meet the criteria should be careful to make sure they have filled out their applications …
Now that universal free and reduced meals are no longer in effect, parents and guardians whose households meet the criteria should be careful to make sure they have filled out their applications ahead of the upcoming school year.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not be extending universal free and reduced lunch into the 2022-2023 academic year according to a release posted on the USDA website.
“Schools had some flexibilities during COVID so they could serve all kids free meals. Some of those options expired, so many schools can’t serve all meals free anymore,” the release said. “Instead, families will do what they did before COVID. Schools will take applications and use family income to qualify kids for free, reduced-price, or paid meals.”
Due to rising food costs Park County School District 1 will be raising meal prices by 75 cents, this is the first increase since the 2016 school year.
Business Services Coordinator Mary Jo Lewis encourages parents and guardians to remember to fill out the applications before the start of the school year so they don’t start the year paying for lunches they could receive at a free or reduced price.
Typically households that had received free or reduced lunches the year before would have a 30-day carryover at the start of the new school year. Because applications did not have to be filled out for universal free and reduced meals, applicable households will likely not have this 30-day carry over.
Parents or guardians can fill out and submit the forms either through mail or electronically. If the application is mailed-in the school district then has 10 days to process the application from the date it was received. Online applications can begin being processed immediately. Parents or guardians can visit the district website at Pcsd1.org which will direct them to Infinite Campus, the student information service used by the district. The application will be filled out through this site, only one application is needed per household.
“If they do it online, that goes automatically into our system, and applies right to the kids because the kids’ names are there. So then those students, it [Infinite Campus] automatically goes ‘oh, you know what, they’re free,’’’ Lewis said. “When we do it paper wise, we then have to go in and put it into the system, attach it to each of those students in that household, and verify that it’s right. So hence you see why that adds to the length of time.”
Lewis also spoke to other benefits of free and reduced lunch applications.
“There’s other reasons to complete the application that are outside [reduced meal prices],” Lewis said. “If you want to get a break on your internet service, they’ll actually ask, do you qualify for free and reduced lunches?”
Along with reduced cost of internet, being able to provide proof that a family benefits from free and reduced lunch can help with things such as educational opportunities and other services.
“We get a higher reimbursement for free and reduced, so that’s why that helps us out obviously, in the food service program, but again, there’s a lot more benefits than just cost of the meals and that type of thing,” Lewis said. “It’s not just benefiting the Food Service Program.”