By Sydney Spencer

Free and reduced lunches had become the norm for many schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the universal program, in Fayette County and other places, will officially end with the start of the new school year.

The Free Lunch Program was initially offered to students at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic through grants and waivers from the state department and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an attempt to make sure that no child went hungry during the pandemic. Congress extended the program through the summer, so students did not have to pay.

Now breakfast and lunch will return to being priced, and payment can be accepted by cash, check or money order to the student’s school cafeteria, according to the Fayette County Board of Education.

FBOE Public Information Officer Melinda Berry-Dreisbach explained the change to the Fayette County News in a recent interview.

“Most students will need to be prepared to purchase breakfast and lunch on the first day of school,” said Dreisbach. “Schools can provide sandwiches and milk to students who don’t have money that day to purchase lunch.”

The families who believe they are eligible will need to fill out the Free and Reduced Lunch Application on Fayette County BOE’s website.

“If families believe they are eligible for free and reduced lunch, then they will need to fill out the Free and Reduced Lunch Application to see if they qualify. This should be done by August 4,” said Dreisbach. “To access the application, families should go to the Fayette County Board of Education (FCBOE) website, select “departments,” then “school nutrition;” there is a link on the left for the application.”

Regular breakfast price for students will be $1.60, but if the student’s family is between 130 and 185% of the federal poverty line, they can receive a reduced breakfast price of $.30. The regular lunch price is $2.90 and for reduced lunch it’s $.40 if a student’s family is between the 130 and 185% of the Federal poverty line.

In order to qualify for reduced breakfast and lunch, the student’s family must be between 130 and 185% of the federal poverty line.

“A student’s family must be at or below 130% of the federal poverty line to receive free lunch,” said Dreisbach. “Between 130 and 185% of the federal poverty line can receive a reduced-price lunch. If above 185 of the Federal poverty line can receive a low cost full-price lunch.”

Under the Child Nutrition Programs tab on the USDA website, families will be able to see if their household income is listed to know if they qualify for free or reduced lunch.