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With inflation costs rising Kentucky Department of Education speaks about school lunch costs

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 17:53:28-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — With emergency waiver programs from the pandemic ending leaders at the Kentucky Department of Education have heard from families concerned about school meal costs rising.

Director of School and Community Nutrition with the Kentucky Department of Education, Lauren Moore, says, "Those waivers that provided those universal free meals are ending."

Moore is reminding everyone of the "Community Eligibility Provision" or CEP that serves 83% of schools in Kentucky. This program allows schools to offer students free breakfast and lunch.

"Students in those schools or across the state that participate in the programs already, pre-pandemic, were eating at no cost to the family,” Moore explains.

For schools that don't have CEP, students can apply for free and reduced lunch or pay the student meal price. This upcoming school year the national school lunch program costs $2.81 on average. School breakfast is $1.62 on average. In 2019, the lunch average was $2.68, and the breakfast average was $1.43. In normal years, inflation increases the cost by around $0.20.

Right now, non-profits like the Amen House in Georgetown, are filling meal gaps through summer feeding programs. This upcoming school year they are continuing to fill in the gaps through a school backpack program that will feed students over the weekends.

Amen House’s Chief Operations Officer, Steven Budde, says, "So, it's a really important program because there's a gap there as well because the schools not feeding them on the weekends. So, we're standing in that gap as well when school starts back up."

Kentucky Department of Education leaders says NSLP sponsors have been able to absorb any extra meal cost.

"They've been able to absorb the increased supply cost and food cost and not pass those prices along to households," said Katie Embree, the department’s School Meals Program Manager. "You can see that in the stability of the paid lunch prices that students will, in non-cep schools, will have."

For parents concerned about school lunch costs this upcoming year, Embree suggests contacting your local school district and seeing what programs are available.

"School districts are working hard in putting their best foot forward to do everything that they can to ensure that their children are getting healthy meals,” says Embree.