USDA announces plan to reimburse school districts for free lunches for all

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the reimbursement made to childcare centers and schools for free meals to all students regardless of their income that was put in place last school year will now continue through the 2021-22 school year. The announcement means that school districts do not have to check student's income eligibility for free meals and are able to set up flexible meal times based on student schedules and needs. The reimbursement also allows districts to serve meals to students outside normal school hours, as well as deliver meals to other places instead of requiring them to pick them up at school. 

School districts are typically reimbursed only for free meals served to students who qualify and participate in the National School Lunch Program through the USDA, which must be applied for each school year through an application made available by the district. Montevideo Superintendent Wade McKittrick does note, however, that it is still important for parents to fill out the application this year, despite it not being used for eligibility for the free lunches, because the data from those forms is used by the district to drive a number of categorical school funding sources which are important to the district’s overall budget. 

In a news release about the reimbursement decision, USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted, “This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It’s a win-win for kids, parents, and schools.”