For the past 2 years, all students have received school meals at no cost thanks to federal USDA waivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But those waivers expired on June 30. What does this mean for school meals in North Carolina?
- Many schools and districts participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which provides breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students without having to collect school meal applications. Families should check with their schools to see if their school is participating this year. Many schools in North Carolina that did not participate in CEP before the COVID-19 pandemic will participate this school year.
- Schools that do not participate in CEP have to collect school meal applications from families to determine if students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. School meal applications can be found on many school districts’ websites and print applications are also available at schools.
- The North Carolina budget includes funding to cover reduced-price lunches for this school year which means that families who qualify for reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program will be able to get them for free for the 2022-23 school year. NC law also includes a similar reduced-price copay for breakfast making breakfast also available at no cost for NC families who qualify for reduced-price meals.
- All families should fill out the school meal application, even if they don’t think they will qualify. Families may be eligible for:
- reduced-cost health insurance
- reduced-price internet services
- waived college admission test fees and college application costs
- certain academic offerings, such as pre-K, digital education programs, and evening and summer classes for high school students
- free or reduced-cost athletic program registration
- School meals are an investment in academic success. All kids can benefit from eating nutritious meals at school.
The North Carolina Alliance for Health is working to ensure that every child benefits from school meals for all. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for our School Meals for All Campaign.