What the end of COVID waivers will mean for school lunch next year
Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Schools across the country haven’t even finished this school year yet, but they’re already preparing for the next one.
Changes are being made specifically to the school meals program. Earlier this year, Congress failed to pass an extension of COVID waivers for the next school year, which could mean a lot of different things for you and your child.
“As we transition to regular priced meals during the school year, I imagine our numbers will also drop significantly, as we capture a whole demographic of students who don’t normally eat at school because this isn’t paying this year, not them are eating,” said Anji Branch, of the Gooding School District.
For the past two school years, every child has been able to eat breakfast and lunch for free at school. Next year, however, parents will have to request a free or reduced lunch.
Another change concerns the meal pattern waiver, which holds the school responsible for what each meal must have: a meat, grain, fruit, vegetable, and milk.
“If we couldn’t get a product that was suitable for K-12 menus, because we have very specific menu guidelines that we have to follow, we could use a product that wasn’t necessarily high in grains. whole, or maybe it’s a little too high in sodium than we normally would allow, that we wouldn’t be penalized, and we won’t have that next year and that’s going to be a big deal,” said Becky Elmore of the Post Falls School District.
Schools are worried about what it might look like due to supply chain issues and product cost. Schools start placing their orders for the next school year in February.
“There are a couple of things, it’s not necessarily COVID at all levels that’s affecting the supply chain, we’ve got all the different ports understaffed, the shortage of truckers, and then there’s a few different natural disasters that have happened,” said Katie Rogers of the Jerome School District.
They’re asking Congress to extend the waivers for a year, and they’re asking local-level representatives to speak up as well.
“One of the things about extending waivers for a year is just to give our industry time to catch up with the changes it needs to make. People in our industry just don’t have enough time. to provide us with the products we need,” Branch said.
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