With no more universal free lunch, most families will have to reapply for benefits

This school year, families will need to fill out the paperwork once again.
As of July 2022, the COVID-19 waivers that provided free universal school lunches to students nationwide expired.
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:58 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:31 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As of July 2022, the COVID-19 waivers that provided free universal school lunches to students nationwide expired.

This school year, families will need to fill out the paperwork once again. Education officials say this marks a major change as the applications were not required since 2019.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction says eligibility for a free or reduced lunch will be based on household incomes.

Many school districts anticipate there will be some families who no longer are eligible for a free or reduced lunch because the guidelines may have changed in the past three years.

This is why several schools are working with Second Harvest Food Bank to be able to assist families in need.

Brian Squire, the Youth and Family Initiatives Manager for Second Harvest, anticipates many families are not aware they need to fill out this paperwork.

“It’s just a big change,” said Squire. “It’s something that folks were very used to and now it’s changing this year.”

He says school districts will have to work to get the information from families. Having the data of those who need support can also help food banks determine where to send more resources.

“Now suddenly having that extra piece on your plate is yet another potential barrier that we don’t want to be there for kids to access food and have the nutrition they need to thrive and be a learner,” Squire added.

At Portage Community School District, Elizabeth Hanson coordinates a food share program. She says it’s disappointing the universal free meals could not continue in schools.

“They’re already seeing a vast reduction in the amount of families who are signing up for that program simply because they haven’t been doing it and getting back in that rhythm is a challenge,” Hanson adds.

There is no hard deadline for submitting an application and they can be turned in at any time, according to DPI. However, state education officials are encouraging families to complete the applications as soon as possible to determine if they are eligible for those benefits.

Some schools within the Madison Metropolitan School District will continue to provide free meals to all families without requiring an application, but district officials are requesting the paperwork to be complete in order to determine if the student may be eligible for other programs.

To view the application, click HERE. To view the income eligibility requirements, follow this link to the DPI website.