Federal waiver program allowing students to receive free breakfast, lunch expires at end of June

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. — In Washington County, students are filling up with nutritious food.

“We are very fearful of what will happen given the escalation of food costs and gas prices,” said Nicolle Bazant Pleil who’s the Food Service Director at Trinity School District.

For the last two years, a federal waiver program has allowed all students to receive a free breakfast and lunch no matter their income. But the program will expire on June 30 after Congress voted to not continue the funding.

“The failure that congress did by not giving USDA the ability to extend waivers right now is so much more than a free hand out,” said Bazant Pleil.

Bazant Pleil anticipates seeing more students experiencing the summer slide this year. She said without a nutritious meal, education can fall.

It’s a concern for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank too.

“Our children shouldn’t have to carry the burden of worrying about hungry. They should be worried about challenges of growing, the challenges of friendship,” said Karen Dreyer who’s Director of Child Nutritious Programs at Food Bank.

Dreyer said without these meals it puts a strain on food pantries because a number of families don’t meet the SNAP requirements. The Food Bank is working to change that while preparing for the impact.

“We’ve been doing work for about the last five months with our summer impact programs so they can still continue to get meals to kids in their neighborhoods even though the school meals will be ending,” Dreyer said.

While the food bank is working on the summer programs, what about this fall when the kids go back to school?

The groups are hopeful a new bill in the Senate will pass that will start this program back up for the new school year.