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Child nutrition advocates urge parents to sign students up for free and reduced lunch

For two years all students, regardless of their economic status, received lunch at schools for free. This won’t happen anymore.

ROCK HILL, S.C. — School districts in our area are preparing for major changes to how they will feed kids.  

For two years all students — regardless of their economic status — received lunch at school for free.  

This won’t happen anymore.  

“Food insecurity really does impact learning,” Lindsay Machak, Rock Hill Schools Director of Communications, said. “And we want to make sure that when a kid comes to school, that it's a worry-free stress-free environment. That they can come and know that they're going to be fed, because when you feed their bodies, then their minds can be fed, too.”  

RELATED: Congress approves free student meal extension through summer

After two years of free lunch for all, schools have to return to charging a fee for kids who don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch.  

“Schools are having to make a difficult choice about raising meal prices,” Diane Pratt-Heavner, School Nutrition Association Spokesperson, said. “School meal programs rely only on federal reimbursements, federal funds, and cafeteria sales to support their operations.”  

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School lunch prices in the greater Charlotte area vary from 30 cents a meal to $3 depending on your economic status for those in Charlotte and surrounding areas.  

Rock Hill Schools made a decision to keep prices the same as pre-pandemic.  

RELATED: Cabarrus County board members deny raising school lunch prices

“With the rising prices of everything in our country, we wanted to make sure that some of those families who may be approaching that brink, between whether they qualify or don't qualify, were still able to access these meals,” Machak said.  

The district’s decision means additional costs of food will come from its budget and not parents’ pockets.  

There’s now a rush to get parents aware they need to fill out free or reduced lunch applications, but there may be some issues.

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“You know, some community’s parents are uncomfortable providing that personal information required on the form," Pratt-Heavner said. "And there's going to be a lot of confusion in the lead-up to the new school year."  

She urged parents to stay aware of when their child’s school applications will open.  

July 1 marks the start for most school lunch applications becoming available in the area, but you can also expect an email or call when your child’s school lunch applications go live.  

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

RELATED: Many kids will no longer have free lunch in the upcoming school year

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