AVON LAKE, OHIO (WJW) – School districts are bracing for a change that could catch parents off guard just days ahead of the school year. Free school lunches will no longer be available to all students.
Federal funding provided through waivers during the pandemic allowed schools to give free lunches regardless of a family’s income. Congressional funding expired in late June.
“As part of the return to a pre-COVID normal the free program for all students was only available during the pandemic, so with that program coming to an end, school districts are now in the position of having to charge for school lunches again,” said Ned Lauver, Director of Operations for the Avon Lake City School District.
“Our meals in Akron will still be at no charge under the Community Eligibility Provision, as we were prior to the pandemic waivers. Our parents will not be required to do anything differently here in Akron, but this does affect many other school districts. We have supply chain issues that are going to affect our operations and menu selections. We are keeping backup plans and sourcing options from a variety of vendors to avoid any shortages.”
Avon Lake City Schools on average served 2,000 free lunches each day last school year. Prior to the pandemic, more than 360 students received a free lunch according to Andrea Sokolow, the district’s food service supervisor. This school year lunch prices she said will not increase for students.
“For the high school kids it’s $3.25, for Learwood and Troy, it’s $3.00 and for all four elementaries it’s $2.75,” said Sokolow.
Paying for lunch again comes as districts brace for another year of potential supply chain problems.
“Last school year was supply chain issues we couldn’t get the items that were directly on the menu and a lot of paper products were short,” said Sokolow. “At one point there was like no peanut butter and jelly available…the actual serving trays that we give the kids…getting a little nervous there wouldn’t be anything to put their food on to serve it to them.”
Lauver encourages parents to check with their district and sign up to determine eligibility and help ensure children don’t go hungry at school.
“If our families are able to take advantage of those programs our staff is ready for them because we want students with full stomachs and available for learning,” he said.