The pandemic rule that enabled school nutrition to be entirely paid for has been over with since last year, and it is missed by some in St. Joseph.
Under the rule, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued universal nutrition waivers. These waivers allowed education agencies to get paid back for the money they spend feeding all students, regardless of their income or where they’re studying. It is all done as part of the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. The universal waivers ended in July 2022 as the U.S. Congress declined to renew funding for them, which would be a yearly cost of $11 billion, as reported by The Washington Post.
“It doesn’t really sound fair, because these are kids we’re talking about, and all kids should get free school lunch,” said Bella Lewis, who intends to enroll her 8-month-old child in the St. Joseph School District in a few years. “Because, why should one school get it, but then the other school, they don’t fall in the criteria? Like, that’s just not right.”
As things stand now, nutrition waivers are still provided, but only to specific families that demonstrate a need based on income — 185% or lower of the poverty line, a little more than $51,000 per year for a family of four. Once more than 4 in every 10 of all students in a given school meet this standard, the entire building receives nutrition waivers.
The local buildings that have free meals for every student are Lafayette High School, Truman Middle School, Robidoux Middle School and the following elementary schools: Edison, Carden Park, Coleman, Hosea, Hyde, Lindbergh and Parkway. All other schools have charge accounts for their students, except for individual families who qualified via the aforementioned filing.