Over the summer, the federal government ended the pandemic-era program that provided free meals to all public school students, leaving families across the country to once again apply for the free and reduced meal program.
“With our family, we just missed the cutoff to get free or reduced lunch, which is something we've gotten in the past. But times are tough, and it's costing us $75 a week," said Tricia Pleu, a parent in Saratoga Springs.
The Saratoga Springs School Board is set to vote on whether to extend free breakfast and lunch for its nearly 6,000 students through the end of the academic year. As a mom of four, Pleu says it would be one less financial burden on her plate.
What You Need To Know
- The Saratoga Springs school board will vote on free meals for students Tuesday
- The school district is looking to provide its nearly 6,000 students with free breakfasts and lunches through the end of the school year
- About 23% of students in the Saratoga Springs School District qualify for free or reduced meals
The school district says they’re already seeing students with negative balances in their accounts, which can lead to families racking up meal debt.
According to a new study by the New York Health Foundation, nearly half of all food-insecure households have children who have gone hungry in the last year.
“One of the things that became a priority that we heard back from our families was to use a portion of the federal COVID funds to continue the free breakfast and lunch program for all students," said Superintendent Michael Patton.
To provide every student with free meals will cost more than $1.1 million. Patton says the district is looking to use around $283,000 in COVID relief funds, as well as money from the food services budget.
“About 23% of our students across our district in Saratoga Springs qualify, but we know there are other families who may not meet that income eligibility that continue to struggle," said Patton.
But this localized temporary fix is not the case for every school in New York. Pleu hopes that her friends in other districts will soon benefit from a free meal program to create balance for the kids, whether it’s in the classroom or the cafeteria.
“If schools can be the place where things even out a little bit, that can be great for their confidence," said Pleu.