As you know, for the last two years Perry County School District 32 has been able to provide breakfast and lunch to our students at no cost to the parents/caregivers. This was made possible using waivers that were approved by Congress. These waivers will expire in June 2022 if the bill, HR 6613—Keeping School Meals Flexible Act, is not approved. At this time, it does not look very promising that HR 6613, which was introduced in February, will pass. We need your help to reach out to our legislators to urge them to continue the waiver program that allows hungry school children to access free meals.
At District 32 in 2018-19, the last full school year before COVID-19 during which we charged for school meals, we served 66,569 breakfasts in our cafeterias and 164,786 lunches. By calculating the number of meals served during the first three months of this year, I estimate that our cafeterias will serve 110,568 breakfasts and 216,754 lunches.
That is an increase of 33,171 breakfasts served, and 65,025 more lunches served. The huge increase is directly attributable to students being offered meals at no cost. By providing free meals to every student, we have eliminated the stigma that sometimes comes with free/reduced meal status. We are feeding Perry County children who would otherwise not have nutritious meals at school, and we all know that a healthy mind starts with a healthy well-fed body.
If HR 6613 does not pass, we will again have to charge for each meal — and will probably have to raise the cost due to rising food costs. We will serve tens of thousands fewer meals, meaning that fewer students are able to concentrate on schoolwork instead of hungry bellies.
This waiver program has been wonderful for Perry County families and children. And a healthy, well-educated populace benefits all of us.
As the food service director for your school district, I ask you to use your voice to reach out to the appropriate people to help pass this bill. Perry County is in Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District, and our representative is Jason Smith, who can be contacted at 1-202-225-4404.
Director of Food Services
Perry County School District 32