The COVID-19 pandemic generated new, one-time funding sources for schools as we addressed the demands for personal protective equipment, sanitizing/disinfecting supplies and technology to assist and support distance learning which included chromebooks and mobile hotspots. Other programs that emerged during the pandemic to support students and families were targeting food and nutrition.
Special programs were set up to allow schools to provide meals to students at no charge to families. These programs were made financially possible through federal dollars and included the Seamless Summer Option School Year 2021/22 and the free school lunch program from the USDA which was extended through June of 2022.
We are currently seeking clarification regarding whether or not components of our summer programming will qualify for continued free summer meals through August of 2022. During this legislative session, House File 1729 (HF1729) would appropriate nearly 230 million dollars to continue free breakfasts and lunches for students over the next two fiscal years. School districts across Minnesota will know the final status of this funding at the end of the current legislative session in May.
Each school year, families who may qualify for educational benefits (formerly known as the Free & Reduced Meal Application) can complete the application process which can be found on our website at www.fergusotters.org
Provided your family meets the eligibility requirements for family size and income, your children will receive free or reduced price meals during the 2022/23 school year. It is the same process that was used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Completing the application also increases revenue for the Fergus Falls School District through what is called compensatory aid.
Regardless of how the 2022 legislative session ends, there are avenues to ensure that children in need will continue to receive nutritious school breakfasts and lunches. Each year, the month of March calls our attention to the issue of food insecurity and the impact of poverty on the health and nutrition of our children. Providing these basic needs allows students to do their very best in school.