Arizona School Districts Offering Free Meals To Kids Thanks To Federal Waiver Extension
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended waivers that allow schools to offer free meals to kids, like they did during the closures, through December. Students at the Queen Creek Unified School District in the East Valley can take advantage of this benefit regardless of their family's income. Other districts like Scottsdale Unified and Washington Elementary are also making the food available to any child under 18, regardless of enrollment.
Queen Creek students typically pay $1.50 for breakfast and as high as $3.25 for lunch. Students from low-income households can pay a reduced price or get the meals for free. Thanks to the federal waivers, the district is now able to offer them for free to all students.
This has been a huge help to families, especially those with multiple children, said Dustin Walker, the district’s director of child nutrition. It’s also made serving lunch easier for the district, where students have been back in-person since Aug. 17.
“It allows us to speed up our lines," he said. "We’re no longer making the kids stand in front of us to give us their student IDs or their barcodes.”
About half of the in-person students are taking advantage of the program, Walker said. Parents of students who have not yet returned can pick up a week’s worth of meals.
Samantha Downer, a mother of three Queen Creek students and a district employee, said the free meals are a big help to her family and others during this time of financial uncertainty.
“Whatever salary my husband and I do make, it goes toward the bills so it relieves, you know it takes that off your back, that you have to worry about where’s the food," she said.
Downers' daughters are enjoying being able to pick out whatever food they want instead of only eating what she makes for them at home.