BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — This might be the last semester of free meals for all Bay County students.
Since Hurricane Michael hit in 2018, followed by the pandemic, Bay District Schools has been feeding all students free lunches.
“The state government and state agencies have said we are going back to the national school lunch program,” BDS Deputy Superintendent Sandra Davis said.
Prior to Hurricane Michael, the school district was operating under the national school lunch program, which allowed students who qualified to get lunches for just 40 cents.
However, now, if the school district has to revert back to that program, those prices could increase.
“Those that qualify for free or reduced lunches would have to fill out an application,” Davis said. “It is based on household income.”
Davis asks all parents to fill out a meal benefit form to prepare for this change.
The change has some parents concerned.
“I think that the threshold for who would qualify for free or reduced lunches is too low,” teacher and single parent Ashley Henderson said. “If you make $23,000, nobody makes that low, so it’s almost like you have to be unemployed to even get it.”
Henderson said she hears how some students are worried about finding money to pay for food.
“Their parents don’t have money for a snack or, ‘I don’t know how I am going to pay my bills,’ they are telling me all these things,” she said. “Some of them might not even go to the cafeteria now to get breakfast because they might not have money for it, so now kids will be going hungry.”
Davis said if a waiver becomes available before the new school year, the district will apply.
However, she said they’ve been told by federal officials to return back to normal lunch programs.
“It is very important that students do not miss a meal, that they have that application completed and the agencies have approved that so we can feed them breakfast and lunch,” Davis said.
Davis said free snacks and dinner will continue into the next school year.