Lake County to continue free meals program during 2022-23 school year

Certain schools no longer qualify for federal funding, though excess funds from prior years will help match costs

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Despite no longer qualifying districtwide to receive funding for a free meals program, Lake County Schools announced it will continue the program into the 2022-23 school year, providing free breakfasts and lunches to all students.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has a Community Eligibility Provision that allows for the country’s highest-poverty districts and schools to serve students free meals without needing to collect household applications.

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While Lake County qualified districtwide for the program in 2018, the provision only allowed for four years of participation. Over the past two years, the district also received funding from the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevent Act aimed at providing free meals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress recently passed extensions to the program only for certain schools in Lake County, as some schools no longer meet the qualifications necessary for funding, school officials said.

However, Lake County Schools said an estimated $3 million in excess funds was collected from the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years — plus additional funding the district expects to receive in 2022-23.

District officials said these funds will be put toward food service-related expenses to continue providing free meals throughout the next school year.

“With the high price of gas, groceries and other goods, lots of families are struggling,” said Superintendent Diane Kornegay. “We hope this will help provide some relief.”

According to the school district, families will not have to apply or meet income requirements to receive the free meals, which was the case under CEP.

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