Local school districts benefit from free lunches provided by USDA

Local school districts benefit from free lunches provided by USDA

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — Local school districts are reaping the benefits from an extension of a federal Coronavirus aid program that will provide free breakfasts and lunches until the end of 2020.

West-Liberty Salem Local Schools Superintendent Kraig Hissong said about 18 percent of the district’s students normally qualify for free or reduced lunch, but the USDA recently extended a program that allows every student, regardless of financial status, to have school meals for free – even if they are completing their classes online.

“This is a true budget saver for a lot of our families,” Hissong told News Center 7′s Jenna Lawson.

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In March, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which allowed students to eat for free.

That money was expected to last through June, but the extension will allow the free meals to continue at school districts around the country until the end of the calendar year.

A crunch of the numbers how quickly the cost of school lunches can add up.

If an eighth grader at West Liberty eats lunch three times a week, the cost is $9.30. Multiply that by 15 to represent the time from the start of the school year to the end of 2020, and that equals $139.50 – just for one child.

“It’s shocking from when I was in school,” said West Liberty-Salem grandma of two, Pamela Stewart.

Stewart said her daughter is already benefiting from the cost savings of the program.

In a time when money is still tight for many families and some parents aren’t back to full-time work – every little bit helps.

“She said it was really helping because it was nice to have that extra money that were putting towards lunches and everything with things the way they are,” she added, “Glad to see that they’re doing it for the kids.”

The program will continue until the USDA can fund it. At this point, that will definitely be through the end of year – possibly into 2021.