Jun 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Free school lunches waiver set to end amid rising food prices

A student eating a lunch in a New York City school in February 2022.
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The free school lunch waivers that the federal government authorized in March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic are set to end June 30 amid high inflation.

Why it matters: Experts warn that many families, facing the end of waivers and rising food and fuel prices, could struggle to feed their children if Congress and the Department of Agriculture does not act quickly enough, according to NBC News.

  • Schools still provide meals to many children and teens in low-income areas over the summer.
  • Families may have to resume paying for school lunches at a time when school districts are also preparing to raise the price of meals because of shortages and rising food prices digging into their budgets, Axios' Erin Doherty reports.

What they're saying: “We continue to call on Congress to act immediately to extend USDA authority to issue child nutrition waivers beyond June 30 to give all children access to the school breakfasts and lunches they need to grow and thrive and to support schools as they face unprecedented supply chain disruptions and increased staffing costs,” Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center, said this week.

The big picture: Several senators signed a letter this week urging congressional leadership to extend the child nutrition waivers in any upcoming packages.

  • Many food pantries in cities across the country have seen a surge in demand amid a lack of donations and increasing food prices, NPR reports.

Go deeper: Rising food prices are changing the way we eat and shop

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