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Free meals ending for many students as COVID19 relief ends

 When schools pivoted to remote learning in March 2020 due to COVID-19, pandemic relief funds were allocated by the federal government to prop up school nutrition programs and offset the impact of food insecurity while school buildings were closed.  Since then, all K-12 students have been eligible to receive free meals from school cafeterias.

A requested extension of the pandemic relief funds was not included in an omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Congress earlier this year which means the free meal waivers will expire when academic programs conclude this summer.  As a result, free and reduced-price meals during the 2022-23 school year will only be available to families who participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Families with students in Jackson County Public Schools can find the online application for the NSLP at

Those who need assistance with the form or do not have Internet access can call (828) 586-2311 ext. 1936.  The application window for the 2022-23 school year opens August 1.

Families who applied and were approved for the NSLP during the current school year will have a 30-day grace period after school begins in August to complete the application for 2022-23.  Their current status for free or reduced-price meals will be retained during the grace period.

Students who did not apply for the program during the current school year will be charged the full amount for meals on the first day of school in August.  However, families can still apply and be approved for the 2021-22 school year and receive the 30-day grace period in August to complete the application for 2022-23.

“We are very disappointed that the free meal waivers are ending,” JCPS School Nutrition Director Laura Cabe said.  “We want every child to have access to healthy food, so we’re trying to make sure our families know about the changes and understand how to apply for free or reduced-price meals.”

All families, regardless of income, who have students in Jackson County Public Schools are strongly encouraged to complete the online application for the NSLP.  Many important school programs are sustained by federal funding that is tied directly to the percentage of students who qualify for the program.

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