‘They’ll be packing meals’: School meals no longer free to all students

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 5:25 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The pandemic has changed a lot of things within schools, in and outside of the classroom.

School cafeterias are now trying to return to a sense of normalcy with changes being made on and off the plate.

Districts have transitioned from the pandemic, returning to standards set back in 2012, following transitional standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which include:

  • Milk: Schools may offer flavored, low-fat milk (1 percent), along with unflavored, low-fat milk and flavored or unflavored nonfat milk
  • Whole Grains: At least 80 percent of grains in school lunch and breakfast per week must be whole grain-rich
  • Sodium: The weekly sodium limit for school lunch and breakfast will remain at the current level, Target 1.

In 2023-2024, the next school year, for school lunch only, the sodium limit will decrease marginally 10 percent.

Nutrition standards are not the only change being seen this school year.

During COVID-19, schools had the flexibility to serve all students free meals, however, now students must be eligible and some believe this could impact some households.

Jeremy Everett, the executive director of Baylor University’s Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, believes this will mostly impact working class families.

“People who are employed that might be barely making ends meets or not quite making ends meet, we know this period of inflation has hit families harder than in many cases than even COVID did,” said Everett.

Borger Independent School District says it is already seeing families in its district be impacted.

“We still feel like the school meal, the price that we charge even for a paid student is a decent price compared to what they could get at McDonald’s or Subway, but at the same time we are sensitive to the fact, it’s going to be hard and a lot of parents have expressed to me they’ll be packing meals,” said Joy Howard, director of child nutrition, Borger ISD.

Everett believes these changes have real consequences for families.

Texas has a food insecurity rate more severe than the national average, with 4.2 million Texans food insecure, including nearly one out of every four children.

Region 16 also expressing the importance of nutritious meals for students.

“Kids who are full and not hungry are going to learn better they’re happier and providing nutritious meals is a good opportunity, especially for kids who are in need, who may only get to eat when they come to school, breakfast and lunch,” said Scott Wilkerson, coordinator of child nutrition, Region 16.