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Federal school lunch waivers extended with days to spare

Joshua Nichols said he would be disappointed if Congress couldn’t compromise to continue the federal waivers.

“That's going to add definitely another level of struggle to families. Now you're going to have to come up with a new solution on how to feed your kids.”

Just days before the deadline, Congress passed the “Keep Kids Fed Act” to extend pandemic school lunch waivers.

Federal waivers have allowed schools to give students free breakfast and lunch, regardless of income.

But, the new extension will limit the number of students getting free meals in the next school year. Amboy School District superintendent Joshua Nichols says that low-income families seeking free school lunches will have to jump through extra hoops.

“Families have to apply for the waiver," he said. "That's going to be a hard step because we've gotten out of the habit of doing it for two years. So families will have to reapply, and they'll go through that process.”

Pandemic federal waivers have also allowed schools to provide meals through the summer.

Amboy is one of many districts that have taken advantage of that. The small, rural districthanded out over a hundred grab-and-go meals every week in the summer.

It’s uncertain if schools like Amboy will be able to pivot this far into the summer to keep those programs up and running. Other school districts have been able to keep programs going even without the waivers, but with rising costs and inflation, Nichols said they simply couldn’t afford the extra $150,000 expense.

Copyright 2022 WNIJ Northern Public Radio. To see more, visit WNIJ Northern Public Radio.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.
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