Maybe the line just needs to be in a different place?
I’ve been wondering… what happens to school lunch applications when the economy changes dramatically? Do more people apply? Do less? Do acceptance rates change?
Hey, the economy just changed dramatically, and then it changed again. Inflation is high and hitting transportation and food costs pretty hard. The market just got slashed. Does the lunch program adjust?
I reached out to contacts on the national level and received more context than I had before and I wanted to share it with you.
Bit #1 • Who qualifies?
The current statute reads that children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free school meals.
Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals (student pays 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch).
The federal poverty level is annually adjusted for inflation.(see https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/income-eligibility-guidelines.)
The numbers for next year have been determined and published on February, 16, 2021. A lot has changed since then. A lot will continue to change.
Here is the table for 2021-22.
Here is the same table for 2022-23.
Bit #2 • Adjust the current program?
In the absence of universal meals, congress is being urged by groups to consider:
- Allowing students eligible for reduced price meals to receive free meals (eliminating the reduced price category).
- To consider increasing the threshold for free meals to 200% of the poverty level.
This last point is where my curiosity started. If it’s unlikely that universal lunch can continue as it has in the last weeks then is there some middle? Why not move the qualification line up and help more folks in a cringe worthy economic climate?
Bit #3 • What about the individual states?
Maine and California have lead the country in passing bills to provide free school lunches to all students in those states by (put simply, and it’s not simple) covering the delta between federal funding and costs.
Right here in MN we have an effort underway, pushed by Hunger-Free Schools Campaign, for the state to pick up the difference between what the federal gov pays and what it costs to deliver meals in schools.
Here are some stats about MN following this article from KARE 11.
- “One in four food-insecure families don’t qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.”
- 76% of respondents to a recent poll believe schools should play a greater role in helping all children have access to food during the school day.
- It would cost $185M a year to cover breakfast and lunch for the 900,000 students in the the state of MN.
- One in six children in Minnesota are food insecure.
Minnesota’s School Nutrition Association signed, along with 47 other state Associations, a recent open letter to Congress urging action. You can find it here if you’re interested.
There is change and there is more of the same.
It looks like we’ll either see congress deliberate the bills on their desks (Support Kids Not Red Tape Act (S. 3979) and the Keeping School Meals Flexible Act (H.R. 6613) and pass something in the next ~6 weeks or we’ll have a patch work of states working to support school nutrition efforts in our dynamic economic and supply constrained climate.
Either way, the debt balances not yet addressed on student accounts from years prior to 2020 remain and will remain until they are written off or paid off.
Thanks for sharpening with Vivront and for sharing with friends. We’re making a difference.
On Your Way
I hope this update, the those before it, have been beneficial. These are more facts than anything and there is a bit of a play-by-play dynamic right now.
Order knives sharpened or a gift at vivront.com. A portion of each set goes to paying down school lunch debt.