All Fayette County students will get free school meals in 2021-2022 due to the pandemic and when charges resume, the district will stop penalizing kids who have unpaid bills by offering only a cheese sandwich.
District nutrition director Michelle Coker made both announcements Thursday night. Federal officials on Tuesday said because of COVID, all public school students across the country will get free breakfasts and lunches in the next school year, 2021-2022, just as they are for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.
Federal policy is currently allowing free meals as public school students have been returning to school buildings after learning from home for months in the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, in announcing that free school meals will continue through June 2022, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the action increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to kids.
“ It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools,” he said in a news release.
Coker also announced that if free meals are eliminated after next school year, the district will no longer deny regular meals to students whose families are behind in paying.
Last week at a budget work session, Fayette school board member Christy Morris asked whether the district could take steps so that kids delinquent in paying for school meals won’t be denied a regular meal and offered an alternative of a cheese sandwich and milk.
The practice known as “lunch shaming” has been criticized when used in districts nationwide. Morris questioned whether the policy “embarrassed” students.
On Thursday night, Coker said if free meals for the district’s 41,000 students are eliminated in the future, new collection processes will be implemented that assure students receive regular meals as collection efforts are undertaken.
An outstanding meal charge balance of $7,126 occurred prior to COVID-19 and was covered by the school district, Coker said.