HARTFORD, Conn. — Local organizations and Connecticut families are pushing for more funding for school lunches to make sure every child at school is fed at no cost to struggling families.
Some school officials said more and more families can't make ends meet, but still don't qualify for reduced lunches for their children.
That's why End Hunger CT and School Meals 4 All coalition are supporting proposed legislation that would pay for school meals for all students across the state.
During the pandemic, there was federal funding that allowed all students across the country to get free meals at school. That program gave Connecticut around $30 million.
But those funds ended towards the end of 2022 and now parents who are struggling are left scrambling trying to apply to other programs to keep their children fed.
In most cases, it's a lengthy process with a lot of paperwork and still many families who can't afford school meals make too much money to qualify.
Currently, a family of four qualifies for reduced meals if they make less than $51,338.
In East Hampton, the free meal program ended on Dec. 1.
Since then, there's been a 60% decrease in students eating school breakfast and a 45% decrease in students eating lunch.
"This year we’ve received five times the amount of free or reduced applications than we saw before the pandemic. I’ve had to refuse over 50% because the incomes were too high," said Jen Bove, the Nutrition Services Director with East Hampton Public Schools. "We have a huge amount of families who make too much to qualify for free or reduced lunches still struggling financially and still digging out from the pandemic."
In East Hampton schools, food costs are up between 40 to 60% for the year.
Cases of lettuce are over $100; that used to be $35. The increase is hitting families even harder at home.
The organizations are calling on Gov. Ned Lamont to approve state funding to bring this program back as soon as possible to help make sure no student goes hungry.
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