USDA to allow free school lunches through June 2022

The United States Department of Agriculture has extended the free lunch program for all students through June 2022.

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The USDA had opened the program — making all students eligible last year — as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools, preventing some children from getting access to free nutritious meals.

Before this week’s announcement the free lunch program for all students was scheduled to run through September, The Washington Post reported.

Tufts University found that schools were a main source of healthy food for children and adults across the country. It found that diets were better when schools provided meals. You can read the study here.

Schools will serve meals through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option. Normally that option fills the void for students in need of meals during summer breaks.

If schools decide to continue giving all students free meals, the government will provide “higher-than-normal meal reimbursements for every meal they serve, which will support them in serving the most nutritious meals possible while managing increased costs associated with pandemic-related operational and supply chain challenges,” the USDA said in the announcement.

The extensions allow students to eat outside of group settings, allowing for social distancing, and at different mealtimes. It also provided opportunities for families to pick up bagged lunches or have them dropped off at homes, for students who are learning virtually, the Post reported.

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