What the Keep Kids Fed Act Means for Tampa Bay’s Students and Families

As the 2022-2023 school year nears, it’s important that schools can provide students with the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Food insecurity rates rose quickly among children during the COVID-19 pandemic, with school closures limiting students’ abilities to access free and reduced meals and snacks throughout the school day.

To combat this, the federal government and USDA issued a series of waivers in March 2020 to help feed students across the country. The waivers relaxed nutrition requirements and guidelines for when and which students could get free or reduced meals. This included providing free breakfast and lunch to every student at school regardless of their families’ incomes. Parents did not have to apply for their child to qualify. 

Although many of our lives are starting to return to normal, pandemic-era challenges may persist when it comes to students and their families who are in FTB’s care. These challenges include inflation, rising costs of many cafeteria staples, and staff shortages. 

On June 25, President Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act days before the waivers were set to expire. The act includes some of the following provisions: 
It extends summer meal flexibilities with to-go and delivery options for students through the end of September. 
It also maintains flexibility around the USDA’s nutritional requirements for schools dealing with supply chain disruptions.
It extends federal reimbursement rates for school meals to offset the increased cost of food. For the next year, schools will get an extra 40 cents in reimbursement for each lunch served under the program and an extra 15 cents for every breakfast.These rates are higher than pre-pandemic levels, though they are less than what was being offered originally at the beginning of the pandemic. 
While the Keep Kids Fed Act is critical to fighting hunger in schools, it does not extend one important provision: universal free meals. Instead, kids with family incomes at or below 130% of the federal poverty level, or whose families participate in state-approved benefits programs (like SNAP or TANF), will be eligible for free breakfasts and lunches. This also applies to any students enrolled in a school that qualifies for the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

Furthermore, most school districts are again requiring families to complete an application to be eligible for the free or reduced meal program. This does not include Citrus, Highlands, or Polk counties, where all students are provided free lunches. Similarly, families of students at CEP schools are not required to submit applications, as participation is automatic. 

If your child is eligible for reduced price lunches, you can find and submit your application online here. Applications should be submitted by the beginning of the school year to ensure your child has access to a meal on the first day. However, you can turn in applications throughout the school year as well!

For more information about your school district’s meal prices and online free/reduced meal application, check out the links below!

Hillsborough County Schools Meal Info Page
Pasco County Schools Meal Info Page
Pinellas County Schools Meal Info Page
Manatee County Schools Meal Info Page
Hernando County Schools Meal Info Page
Citrus County Schools Meal Info Page
Sumter County Schools Meal Info Page
Polk County Schools Meal Info Page
Hardee County Schools Meal Info Page
Highlands County Schools Meal Info Page

Author: Hannah Himmelgreen