This upcoming school year, Shawnee Mission will start charging families for breakfast and lunch meals. File photo.
Shawnee Mission, like school districts nationwide, is once again expected to start charging students and families for meals at school this coming fall.
Why now? The policy change comes after Congress did not give the U.S. Department of Agriculture permission to extend national waivers that have allowed districts to serve free meals to all students the last two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to district Director of Food Services Grace Liss.
This means the district must reinstitute the Child Nutrition Meal Benefits application — better known as free and reduced lunch — for the 2022-23 school year, Liss told the school board at a workshop meeting Monday night.
Who it impacts: Any Shawnee Mission family who might be eligible for free and reduced lunch will need to fill out the application form, which becomes available on July 1. Eligibility is based on a family’s income and is determined by the federal government.
Families can sign up for the summer food service program, which will require students to eat meals in-person this year. Liss said that is to prevent confusion among participating families when the USDA waiver for non-congregate feeding expires halfway through the program on June 30.
Background: At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, SMSD offered free “pick-up-and-go” meals authorized by the USDA, even though in-person classes were not happening.
The board of education approved 5- to 10-cent increases for school meals in April 2021 for the current school year, but those updated prices have yet to be used as meals have remained free to students.
What’s next: Shawnee Mission will remind families to fill out the free and reduced lunch application in the coming months, Liss said. Applications for the 2022-23 school year cannot be completed until July 1, per USDA regulations, she said.
Families who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch will need to pay for student lunches in the upcoming school year.
Key quote: “A year ago, the board set meal prices that we never used and right now our plan is to use those meal prices moving forward next school year,” Liss said. “The reason for that being because families haven’t paid for meals in two years. If we would skyrocket those prices, that’s just going to hurt us.”
👋 Hello! I'm Juliana Garcia, and I cover Prairie Village and the Shawnee Mission School District for the Shawnee Mission Post.
I grew up in Roeland Park and graduated from Shawnee Mission North before going on to the University of Kansas, where I wrote for the University Daily Kansan and earned my bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to joining the Post in 2019, I worked as an intern at the Kansas City Business Journal.
The work I do every day — from going to school board meetings to staying on top of business openings and closings — is only possible because of our subscribers.
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