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Congress has until June 30 to keep student’s lunches free through summer

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:18 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Schools sent free lunches home to students during summer break as part of pandemic relief. Now, Congress is not extending the USDA waivers that made this possible.

“It’s a matter of funding more than anything else,” Albemarle County Public Schools Spokesperson Phil Giaramita said.

“There has always been the opportunity for reimbursement through the USDA for things like the summer lunch program. So that won’t change, schools could still receive reimbursement should they choose to do this. It’s just the reporting requirements are changed slightly because those waivers are no longer in place,” said Alex Gross, the executive director of the PB&J Fund nonprofit.

Giaramita says that reimbursement is limited to schools where the number of children who qualify for free and reduced lunches is more than half of the student body. ACPS will use the remaining funding to feed students in summer school.

Charlottesville City Schools is doing the same. In a statement to NBC29, a spokesperson for CCS says, “We are asking families for whom this presents a challenge to be in touch so we can connect them with community resources. We are also still enrolling students in our summer school and connecting families to other summer enrichment programs.”

U.S. Senator Mark Warner says members of Congress have until June 30 to extend the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, which would provide meals means through September 2023.

“I’m still trying to work with my Republican friends and say, ‘Let’s extend this. Who doesn’t want to make sure that kids get the access to food, particularly at school?’” Sen. Warner said.

International Neighbors Director of Operations Rachel Vogus says she sees the need for food first-hand when working with refugees.

“Those families are absolutely reliant on the lunches that they get at school. Many of them, their SNAP benefits haven’t even started yet. Some of them, their SNAP benefits have started, but they use school lunches to stretch those budgets and get the nutritional needs met for their family,” Vogus said.

“The most important thing for us is to continue to advocate that this be put in place for years to come, and that it’s not dependent upon, you know, decisions at the federal government but that we’re making investments locally,” Gross said.

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