Recent funding to help more Arizona students get free school meals
PHOENIX — More students will soon have access to free breakfast and lunch at Arizona schools thanks to pandemic relief dollars.
The Arizona Department of Education will use $6.75 million in federal funds to cover fees for students who qualify for reduced-price meals at K-12 public school.
Funding will go into effect starting January through the end of the next school year.
“This is one way that we can put the money directly towards our schools in a way that’s ultimately supporting parents and families, and ensuring that no kid goes hungry while they’re at school,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
She added the funds come as families are struggling with high inflation and rising costs of groceries.
Currently, a family of four with an annual household income between $36,076 and $51,338 pay a reduced price for school meals, according to ADE. Families making less qualify for free meals in schools operating the National School Lunch Program.
“A critical component for students to do well academically is to not be hungry – to make sure they can have breakfast and lunch,” Hoffman said. “And far too many kids in Arizona are worried about where their next meal will come from.”
ADE estimated the funds will pay for more than 2.2 million meals.
This comes after waivers from the federal government that covered school meals for all students during the pandemic expired this past summer.
That meant Arizona schools had to go back to asking families to submit an application to see if they meet the income requirements to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Hoffman said she encourages state lawmakers to allocate funding so that students who qualify for reduced-price meals can continue getting free breakfast and lunch after the federal funds run out.
“I hope that they can study the results of this and speak directly with the parents and families being served, so that they can continue this program beyond the next school year,” she said.