us department of agriculture

Free School Lunches for All Set to End, Creating ‘Perfect Storm' Amid High Inflation

Congressional child nutrition waivers that allowed for free meals in school and other food assistance measures are expiring June 30. Advocates say it couldn’t come at a worse time

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A federal waiver that made school breakfasts and lunches free to students regardless of their family’s income is set to expire June 30, eliminating a benefit that has helped millions of schoolchildren at a time when they need it more than ever, anti-hunger advocates say.

The free school meals program began in March 2020 when Congress authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue dozens of child nutrition waivers, including ones that expanded summer food programs, to provide a lifeline during the pandemic.

The cafeterias that serve students, meanwhile, are already running into obstacles: Supply chain interruptions have driven up the cost of their foods dramatically and made it difficult for them to comply with the strict meal requirements set forth by the USDA. The waivers gave them flexibility to provide nutritious meals using substitutions without penalties.

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