Virginia’s new state budget that took effect July 1 includes $8.2 million over the next two years to help local school divisions eliminate the cost of school breakfast and lunch for students who are eligible for reduced price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The funding will help approximately 64,500 more school-age children access free meals.
According to No Kid Hungry Virginia, the new law will help schools and community groups in the commonwealth and across the country more effectively reach students through summer meals and school meal programs. The new budget will allow for flexibilities such as grab-and-go and delivery distribution models to continue through summer 2022; remove financial penalties for food substitutions caused by supply chain disruptions; and increase meal reimbursement rates for schools and meal program operators.
The legislation comes as schools and community organizations navigate increased food and labor costs, as well as ongoing supply chain issues. Currently, 92% of school districts nationwide cite trouble sourcing the food they need due to ongoing delivery disruptions, and nearly 75% report staffing challenges.
Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott co-sponsored the federal Keep Kids Fed Act, legislation that will give schools and community organizations more of the tools and financial resources they need to continue feeding children through summer 2022 and the 2022-2023 school year.
“This is a huge step forward and provides needed support to schools and communities working tirelessly to connect kids with nutritious meals,” said Sarah Steely, No Kid Hungry Virginia Director. “School and summer meals are a lifeline for the many families who are hurting from rising food, transportation and housing costs. While school districts will continue to face challenges, the new law will help teams more effectively manage rising prices and supply chain issues.
“School meals are critical to supporting our children’s academic success and well-being. We applaud Governor Youngkin and Virginia’s lawmakers for supporting this important budget provision, which will help more students access school breakfast and lunch at no charge. The funding will also eliminate the administrative and financial burden on school nutrition teams to collect unpaid meal debt from reduced-price-eligible-students so staff can do what they do best: feed kids.”