Kansas students to receive free and reduced-price school lunches thanks to recent USDA expansion

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COLUMBUS, Kans. — Access to meals for students is a priority for many school districts.

Thanks to a recent expansion to Medicaid coverage, some students may not need to worry about where their next meal comes from.

Lorie Carpino, Food Service Director, says, “One of the struggles that we have here in Southeast Kansas is finances and so this allows families to go ahead and have breakfast and lunch for their kids.”

An expansion to the USDA’s free and reduced-price school lunch program will help increase access to meals for students covered by Medicaid.

Kansas along with seven other states have been added to the program designed to help low-income families and streamline the process for school districts.

“One of the big things it will do is it will help us decrease the amount of paperwork that we have that families have to fill out that we have to go through,” said Carpino.

“Sometimes we’ll have families that don’t realize they qualify, don’t fill out the forms, and this way they’re automatically going to qualify,” said Dr. Brian Smith, Columbus Schools Superintendent.

This will be helping students like those at Highland Elementary and the Columbus School District, who saw 50 percent of their students on free, or reduced lunches before the pandemic.

During the pandemic, the school system has been grateful for the free meals provided through the USDA for the past two school years.

“People have been very thankful for that, even middle class families are struggling right now because costs of food and groceries have went up. I think they’ve been very appreciative, we’ve had no complaints during this period,” said Smith.

The new coverage is expected to begin at the start of the 2022-23 school year.

“You can call our district office and just ask and we can talk to them about the income thresholds and so forth, and help them with the paperwork if they need that too,” said Smith.

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