Universal access to free school lunches will end as the 2022-2023 school year begins. Expanded federal funding passed during the pandemic did not get included in the latest spending bill, and that change could impact about 10 million children.
The United States Department of Agriculture spent $30 billion to fund the program, a full $11 billion more than the cost of the free and reduced lunch program. The Universal School Meals Program Act provided every child with free lunch, regardless of income, to offset the food insecurity many children faced during the pandemic.
However, two members of Congress plan to introduce a reauthorization that would qualify more children and families for programs like school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Government child nutrition programs during the pandemic definitely played an important role in reducing child hunger, and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation will attempt to make modifications to modernize and strengthen child nutrition programs permanently.
As it currently stands, households must make less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line to qualify for free meals.
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