Families Struggle as Pandemic Program Offering Free School Meals Ends

A federal benefit guaranteeing free school meals to millions more students has expired as food prices have risen. Many families are feeling the pinch.

Like other parents, April Vazquez, a school nutrition specialist in Sioux Falls, S.D., is cutting coupons, buying in bulk and forgoing outings and restaurant meals. Still, a hot lunch in the school cafeteria for her three children is now a treat she has to carefully plan in her budget.

The expiration of waivers that guaranteed free school meals for nearly 30 million students across the United States during the pandemic has meant that families like Ms. Vazquez’s who earn just over the income threshold no longer qualify for a federal program allowing children to eat at no cost.

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