The report finds that 32% of families struggle to afford school lunches

The report finds that 32% of families struggle to afford school lunches

The lunch lady who serves food to girls in the cafeteria is struggling to pay for lunch
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A recent study found that 32% of all families with children in school who paid for school lunches said it made things financially difficult for their family through the end of 2022. This percentage remained steady for the rest of the 2022-2023 school year and rose slightly to 35%. % from April 16 to May 8, 2023. If you’re feeling the pinch of paying for school lunches amid rising food costs and inflation, you’re not alone.

The USDA’s National School Lunch Program provides free and reduced-price meals based on family income levels. During the pandemic, all meals have been provided completely free regardless of household income. But that waiver expired in June 2022, and most schools have since returned to charging families for meals. (Although many states have made free lunches permanent.) The expiration of free school lunches has led to concerns about its impact on families’ ability to pay for other expenses.

The recent study by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) used new data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) to measure the impact of paying for school lunches. Data were collected from December 9, 2002 to May 8, 2023.

The study revealed differences in financial hardship among households by race and ethnicity during the period from December 9 to 19, 2022.

White households reported a 32% contribution to financial distress, non-Hispanic households reported 33%, Black households reported 46%, non-White and non-Black households reported 36%, and Hispanic households reported 39%.

The report’s authors note that more research is needed to evaluate the extent to which the burden of paying for school meals contributes to financial hardship compared to other factors.

“Without similar data from pre-pandemic years, it is unknown how more people reporting paying for school meals contributed to their financial distress in the 2022-2023 school year compared to the typical school year,” a recent USDA statement said.

But it is clear that many families continue to face ongoing economic challenges post-pandemic – and reducing or fully subsidizing the cost of school meals for students should be an important factor to consider in policy discussions.

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