School Meals, Free for Another Year, Seen As Lifeline

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

12 million

That’s how many children may be living in households without enough to eat as the federal government extends a free school meals initiative for another school year. 

Extending measures put in place when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said last week that schools and childcare centers nationwide will continue to be able to offer free school meals, including grab-and-go meals, through June 2022. This applies to all children, regardless of income. 

The average school lunch costs $2.48-$2.74, depending on the grade, according to 2016-2017 data from the School Nutrition Association, though low-income families are eligible for free or reduced prices in a typical year.

“During the past year, America’s schools and childcare centers have provided a nutrition lifeline for children across the country, many of whom depend on USDA’s child nutrition programs for the nourishment they need to grow and thrive,” the USDA said in a statement, citing as many as 12 million children living without food security. 

The extension is another protection geared toward families with children weathering the pandemic. The American Rescue Plan, a signature achievement of President Joe Biden, also doubled the per-dependent amount distributed through stimulus checks and significantly expanded the child tax credit.