Pandemic Era Free Lunch Program Ends Before Back to School

The free school meals program launched during the pandemic will not resume this school year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nationwide school lunch program allowed all students, regardless of income, to have free breakfast and lunch at school.

Free lunches are available even for students whose parents’ income is low enough. By law, schools cannot withhold food from those who cannot afford it.

Some school districts, like Roosevelt and Hempstead, have a large percentage of the student population covered by public benefit programs. But with inflation and rising food costs many middle-class families still struggling, change is coming.

Glen Cove’s Mareza Rivera says her 12-year-old daughter took advantage of the free lunch at school.

“It was easy. I didn’t have to worry about packing,” she says.

Rivera said help is still needed due to high inflation and high food prices.

“Everything’s going up, it’s insane. I’m going to the grocery store and spending $100 to buy the little things,” Rivera says. It’s very useful because I don’t have to go shopping.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul says 75% of New York students who need it most will still have access to free school meals.

To qualify for New York’s free meal program for the 2022-23 school year, a family of four must earn less than $51,338 annually.

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