Returning Lunch Costs Lunch payment clarity, what the

Lunch payment clarity, what the change will mean for students


Congress passed the Universal School Meals Program Act in 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which allowed
school districts to provide free meals to all students regardless of income, which previously was not the case. The federal act was only set to last until early 2022, when funding ran out. In response to the lack of national funding, Connecticut allotted a hefty $30 million to all public districts to keep lunches free while life returned to normal. Now, the state budget is beginning to run out, like in some districts such as Old Lyme and Salem.

EL lunches remain free until Jan. 2 as the funds will expire on Jan. 1, 2023, according to Superintendent Jeffrey Newton. Mr. Newton notified students and families of the change in the second quarterly district newsletter to give eligible families time to submit free and reduced lunch price forms.

The free and reduced lunch price program, established under the National School Lunch Act of 1946, aims to provide all students access to nutritionally balanced, low cost meals. According to head chef Karla Sullivan, lunch cost $3.50 and a second lunch cost $3.25 pre-COVID. Mr. Newton said in the newsletter that prices will return to the pre pandemic rate Jan. 2. For eligible families, the free and reduced lunch price forms are available in the main office as well as the district website. Because school lunches have been free to all students for the past two school years,
the system that kept track of which students were enrolled in the free and reduced price program is out of date. Before the program returns, all eligible students, whether they were previously enrolled or not, must return the forms to be enrolled. However, according to Mr. Newton’s statement in the newsletter, families that have already
received a letter for free and reduced price benefits from the district this year do not need to submit new forms.
“We’d never turn anyone away. We will always find a way to make sure everyone gets fed each day,” Ms. Sullivan said. This has always been the case at ELHS. More i n f o r m a t i o n on the free and reduced program can be found in the main office.