Pandemic-related free school meals to end next year

(ABC 6 News) – School meals will no longer be free for all students starting next year. Coupled with remaining supply chain issues, the Minnesota School Nutrition Association predicts school breakfasts and lunches will actually be more expensive.

The Nutrition Association was hoping the federal government would extend the fee waivers in this fiscal year’s $1.5 trillion Omnibus Appropriations bill, but Congress did not approve the funding.

Due to supply chain disruptions school meal programs have had to be flexible with their meal plans. Certain foods like grains or milk remain hard to come by across the United States.

Carrie Frank is in charge of school meals at Dover-Eyota Public Schools, and is the President of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association.

"You’re looking at a very large population that now after two years of saying ‘your meals are free,’ now I’m going to have to say ‘nope – now you have to pay.’"

She says that without the waivers and extra reimbursement from the federal government, her program will have to eat rising costs from the supply chain and pass that cost onto families.

About 15 percent of Dover-Eyota students are a part of the free and reduced meal program.

Frank is suggesting every family apply for the free or reduced lunch program — even those who are not sure if they will qualify.