Gunnison, Utah — As the new school starts next week, parents are being reminded that school lunches will no longer be free for students whose families don’t apply for assistance.
Last few years, the federal government covered the cost of meals for everyone as a part of a COVID relief package.
“The waivers all ended June 30, so we have to do applications like we did pre-COVID,” said Delene Coates, the child nutrition director for the South Sanpete School District, an area where she says many students would qualify for some sort of assistance.
“We range from 40-50 percent free or reduced [meals],” she added.
Despite dramatic increases in food costs due to inflation, Coates says at least in her district, the meal prices will stay the same. “That will vary from district to district, but in our district, prices are not going up and we are really grateful for that. I want you to know it’s very nutritious, it tastes good and our lunch ladies love your kids.”
According to administrators, applying for the free or reduced program helps finances for families, but also benefits schools. “A lot of our programs are run based on the number of free and reduced lunch participants that we get,” said Gunnison Valley High School principal Eugene King.
The school is encouraging families to apply, saying that number often helps schools when it comes to future grants or classifications. “This is about providing all the opportunities that we can provide in a rural school district for our students to succeed and do better,” King said.
Different districts have different deadlines, but typically the signup process runs through October 1.