On Saturday, President Joe Biden signed into law the Keep Kids Fact Act, which extends partial school meal flexibility through the next school year. The universal meal program was set to expire on June 30.
The extension of the program is a boost to Harford County families experiencing financial hardships, said Kim Neely, director of the food pantry at Harford Community Action Agency.
“School meal financial support is crucial for so many of these families with children,” Neely said. “With the rising food costs and inflation, the Keep Kids Fed Act will surely provide additional meals to the children in the community and give the parents some financial relief to be able to provide meals for their families.”
The Keep Kids Fed Act is a $3 billion plan to extend all pandemic school meal waivers through the summer and and increased federal reimbursements for school through the 2022-23 school year.
The extension will allow meal deliveries and grab-and-go options for students. The additional benefits came in response to the planned end of the universal meal program, which would have meant parents would have to reapply to the National School Lunch Program for free or reduced-cost school meals.
The universal meal program provided free breakfast and lunch for all students in public schools schools for the past two years through federal pandemic assistance.
According to Harford County Public Schools, the cost of breakfast in the 2021-22 SSO Summer Food Service Program Reimbursement, came to $2.61. Schools were reimbursed 37 cents per paid breakfast and $1.20 per free or reduced breakfast.
In the 2021-22 SSO Summer Food Service Program Reimbursement, lunches cost $1.97, with schools being reimbursed by 42 cents per meal per paid lunch and $3.73 per free or reduced lunch.
The school system was reimbursed by the federal government for summer meals (June, July and August) $180,347.33 in 2019; and through the Keep Kids Fed Act, $1,068,413.62 in 2020 and $1,548,157.60 in 2021.
The state of Maryland covers the cost of breakfast and lunch for students who qualify for reduced-price meals.
Harford County was also selected to participate in Maryland’s 2022 Summer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which will give almost 10,000 children extra benefits.
Summer SNAP will provide $30 extra per additional child for June, July and August, as well as an additional $10 over the winter break in December – a total additional benefit of $100 per child.
“The county executive is glad to see the federal government take some action as food prices continue to rise, and he will certainly be moving forward with his commitment to the Summer SNAP program to help families in need in Harford County,” said Cynthia Mumby, director of governmental and community relations.
Harford County Public Schools started its summer meals program on June 20 to ensure children had continued access to meals throughout the summer, after school ended on June 16, said Jillian Lader, the school system’s manager of communications.
Currently, the school system is waiting for additional guidance from the state Department of Education as to how exactly this will impact the summer meals program that already exists, said Kristen Sudzina, supervisor of food and nutrition for Harford County Public Schools.