(NewsNation) – On July 1, the universal free school lunch will be no more.
Pandemic-era federal waivers that offered free meals to all students, regardless of economic status, expire June 30.
Since former President Donald Trump signed the COVID-19 relief package in 2020, an additional 10 million children have been able to regularly eat at school for free. Millions more received after-school dinners and families had the opportunity to have meals for their children.
Katie Wilson, executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance, explained what the lunch program expiration would mean for schools and students during an appearance on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”
“Families are going to be in for a shock to the system,” Wilson said. “As if things weren’t difficult enough with prices going up and trying to keep everything under control, trying to get back to work.”
Many families rely on the program. For some, they’re grateful for the convenience, but for others, it’s the only food they’ll get, Wilson said.
“All of a sudden, in the middle of the summer meals program, we won’t have school meals for these kids anymore unless we identify their income level in their home environment,” Wilson said. “So it’s going to be, for us, catastrophic.”
According to Wilson, the Urban School Food Alliance represents the nation’s 18 largest cities with multiple locations in each city.
There are a lot of smaller faith-based and community organizations that are doing summer meals as well,” Wilson said. “And a lot of them said no, not this year, because it’s just not stable enough for us.
The organizations do not know if they will be able to feed all the children or not.
“So for kids coming to these sites,” Wilson said, “it’s going to be abysmal.”
School districts are still experiencing serious supply chain issues, according to Wilson.
“We don’t know if a truck is going to come and if it comes you don’t know what’s on it,” she said.
Wilson said districts are seeing a 40% to 75% increase in costs as the federal reimbursement rate declines.
“Right now, with the waivers, we’re getting a much higher reimbursement rate, which helps cover that cost,” she said. “It helps the school district reset and recover financially from all of this, but on July 1st that’s another thing that will happen is that the reimbursement rate will also drop by about 40 cents per meal. . So it’s going to be really difficult for the school district to continue doing business.
In January, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement an adjustment to school lunch reimbursements to help schools continue to serve children healthy and nutritious meals, injecting an estimated $750 million more into school lunch programs across the country this year.
“It seems like a big number, but it’s for a variety of things,” Wilson said. “There are certain constraints that come with that. So every district will get a little of something, but it’s not enough to ensure that every child in the United States who needs food right now will have food once these waivers are gone.
Watch the full Katie Wilson interview in the video player at the top of the page.