For first time in 2 years, not all SMSD students will get free meals — What families need to know

Shawnee Mission sign

Reminder for Shawnee Mission families — those who might qualify for free or reduced meals need to fill out a meal application for the upcoming school year. File photo.

Shawnee Mission families who might be eligible for free or reduced priced meals this year will need to fill out an application in order to receive the benefit.

Why it matters: This is the first time in two years that school meals will not automatically be free for all students.

  • That’s because Congress did not approve an extension on a waiver for free meals as it did in 2020 and 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The upshot: As a result, eligible families who might need free and reduced price meals for their children at school are being encouraged to fill out a meal benefit application with the district before the start of the new school year next month.

Who is eligible? That is determined by the federal government and is based on a family’s income.

  • Based on the USDA’s current guidelines for the 2022-23 school year, the annual household income for a family of four must be at or below $36,075 in order to qualify for a free lunch.

Other impacts: Additionally, if families do not complete the application, SMSD will not receive certain additional state funding to support staffing and other student learning resources, according to a district news release.

  • Families who qualify for free or reduced meals can also open up other eligibility opportunities like free or reduced instructional resource fees, pre-kindergarten enrollment or transportation fees, according to the district news release.

Background: The federal government made school meals nationwide free for all students, regardless of their family’s income, as a result of the pandemic.

  • That started in the 2020-2021 school year, the first full year under COVID-19.
  • The government continued to subsidize universal free meals through the 2021-2022 school year, but did not approve it again for the 2022-2023 school year.

How to apply: A SMSD meal benefit application can be found on School Cafe here. Those who can’t complete an online application can fill out a paper application (details here).

  • Families interested in other eligibility opportunities like free or reduced transportation fees need to complete a Consent for Disclosure form in Skyward.
  • Those with state assistance who are directly certified to receive free meals do not need to complete the application.
  • If you’ve yet to receive a notification of eligibility for free meals and already received state assistance, you can call the Shawnee Mission food service office at (913) 993-9710.