Holmen Schools to pay the cost of reduced-price meals for eligible students

Director of Nutrition Services of the Holmen School District Michael Gasper is urging parents to complete the required paperwork in order to apply for free or reduced-price lunches.

HOLMEN, Wis. (WKBT) — At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government started funding free breakfast and lunch for public school students, expanding the amount of kids who could get access to food during school hours.

On June 30, the government program that allowed for the free food expired. Director of Nutrition Services of the Holmen School District Michael Gasper feels the expiration of the government assistance will create hardship in the 2022-2023 school year.

Gasper said he feels the issue of school lunch shaming, or kids being turned away in line because of money owed and then not being allowed to eat, will once again become an issue.

“I think that’s going to be a nationwide problem again,” he said.

But, Gasper said the Holmen School District is going to pay the cost of reduced-price meals for students this year, in an effort to help families as much as possible.

He also said parents and guardians still need to apply to find out if they’re eligible for free and reduced-price meals for their kids. Gasper said that parents and guardians who aren’t sure if they qualify should still apply.

“It’s really important for people to fill out their forms,” he said.

Gasper added that he’s concerned that parents may forget to fill out the paperwork to ensure their child has access to a free or reduced-price lunch. He said the administrative task of processing all the documents could be extremely time-consuming, which means that students could end up waiting.

“It’s an enormous amount of time that it takes,” Gasper said.

The expiration of the federal program is a return to how the process worked before the pandemic hit.

“We’re transitioning back to the traditional programs and families will need to establish eligibility of free or reduced to receive those benefits,” said Karrie Isaacson, the assistant director of the school nutrition program at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Gasper said that before the pandemic, about 28 to 30 percent of students in the Holmen School District were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. He also said the Holmen School District provided about 800,000 meals to students in the 2021-2022 school year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the government spent nearly $27 billion to provide universal free lunch in the year 2021.

The cost of food has risen 10.9% nationally since July 2021, according to the consumer price index.

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