Free school meals continue to end of school year, free or reduced-lunch applications still needed

Updated: Dec. 7, 2020 at 5:38 PM CST
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REGION 9, Texas (TNN) - Meals will continue to be free for students in school for the rest of the school year after the Texas Department of Agriculture extended its waiver.

While the free meals are a relief to families, it’s creating an unforeseen consequence for districts.

It’s led families to not fill out applications for the free or reduced-lunch program. That lack of applications this year is threatening funding needed to keep those programs going next year.

“It is very, very important to get those free and reduced applications filled out,” Tammie Newcomer, the cafeteria food service director for Vernon ISD, said.

Information from those free and reduced lunch applications helps make it possible for districts to receive Title I funding aimed at helping students who are at the risk of falling behind academically.

‘”We don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where if that information is ever needed,” Farai Sithole, the district manager for Chartwells K12, said, “we need to be ready to provide that information.”

For district’s like Vernon ISD, where 70-percent of students qualify for the program, the applications are crucial.

“I mean it’s not great as a community to have that many on free and reduced lunch,” Newcomer said, “but it will help that funding to get the students the meals that they need.”

And because the Texas Department of Agriculture made all meals free early on in the school year, Newcomer said “we have noticed that we have less parents filling out those applications.”

While the free meal extension is something both parents and districts are celebrating as we head into the second half of this school year, schools need to know they have the funds available for next school year.

“We need to get those free and reduced apps in so we can get those meals to those students,” Newcomer added.

Families need to fill out the application for the 2020-2021 year in order for the information to impact the 2021-2022 school year.

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