School meals: Federal funding extended to help families during coronavirus

Area school officials applauded the news last week that federal funding for school meal programs for needy families has been extended through the end of the year to better help families during the coronavirus pandemic. (File Photo\Journal-News)

Area school meal programs got a recent boost of federal funding, allowing needy school families to continue to receive free meals through the rest of the year.

The announcement by officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was welcomed by area school officials, who said the federal help was needed in districts who are trying to maintain a nutritional connection to families who may be struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are grateful for the additional assistance for our families who are struggling financially, but didn’t necessarily qualify for the federal free and reduced meal program,” said Craig Hatfield, Lakota Schools' senior director of business operations, which includes the district’s Child Nutrition program.

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Lakota, which has Butler County’s largest public school enrollment of 16,800 students, has continued to provide school meals for families in the district’s virtual learning option (VLO) of learning remotely from home through the first semester of the school year.

The additional USDA funding will be provided through Dec. 31 or until federal funding runs out, said USDA officials.

From this week onward, student accounts will not be charged for any breakfast or lunch meals that meet the regular meal criteria set forth by the USDA. All students can receive one breakfast and one lunch daily at no cost. A-la-carte purchases will still be charged as usual, said Lakota officials.

Officials in the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools said “we encourage all families to fill out the new 2020-2021 Free & Reduced Meal eligibility application at your earliest convenience.”

“This will ensure that your students will continue to receive meals at qualified pricing based on eligibility guidelines at the conclusion of the waiver extension. If you have already completed a new application for this school year, another application does not need to be submitted,” said Fairfield officials.

“We hope this information reaches our families and will provide some relief during these unprecedented times,” they said.

School families seeking more information on their local school system’s free and reduced cost school meal programs should seek more information at their district’s website or from their children’s school.

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