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Qualify for reduced-price school meals in NC? | You'll now get them for free

The North Carolina state budget, signed Monday, includes funding to pay school meal costs for families qualifying for reduced meals.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Students that qualify for reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program will be able to get them for free for the 2022-23 school year.

Guilford County Schools Chief Financial Officer Angie Henry said the state budget included funding to cover the meals for this school year. 

"Students who have their nutritional needs met certainly perform better in school and so, the more of those students that we can get free meals to the better I think our students will be able to perform," Henry said. 

Families will still need to apply for the National School Lunch program after federal waivers allowing free meals to all students expired on June 30. All students were able to receive free meals without an application for the last two years during the pandemic. 

GCS officials recommend everyone apply, even if they don't think they will qualify. There is no deadline to complete the application but if families want it to start by the school year, they need to complete the application at least two weeks in advance. 

The application for Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools will be available on August 1.

RELATED: Free school meals for all are ending | Here's what you need to do now

In June, President Joe Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act which increased reimbursements to schools for the National School Lunch Program.

"School meal programs are facing skyrocketing costs just like families are but it’s even worse for schools because they’ve hit so many supply chain disruptions," said Diane Pratt-Heaver, with the School Nutrition Association. "They work hard to order food and supplies well in advance to secure the best possible price but right now they are seeing so many of their orders canceled at the last minute or shorted and they have to scramble to secure food and supplies for the cafeteria paying a much higher price"

According to a survey by the School Nutrition Association, 97% of meal programs reported challenges with higher costs. More than 98% reported shortages of menu items,s supplies, and packaging. GCS said they have faced issues as well so the Keep Kids Fed Act would help. 

"The cost of foods increasing, the cost of transporting the food is increasing and so we are seeing tremendous cost increases," Henry said in June. "So bringing that reimbursement rate higher will allow us to continue serving quality food."

RELATED: Congress approves free student meal extension through summer

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