MANKATO — Mankato Area Public Schools set school breakfast and lunch prices for the upcoming school year for the first time since the pandemic at their board meeting on Monday.
This comes as federal waivers that allowed schools to serve free meals during the pandemic expire at the end of the month.
Elementary paid breakfast and lunch prices, which were $1 and $2.35 respectively, and secondary paid breakfast and lunch prices, which were $1.05 and $2.65 respectively, will each go up 10 cents. Kindergarteners will still have free breakfast.
The waiver authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture ends June 30, meaning school districts are set to return to income-based programs like the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs once the school year starts again.
According to MAPS Director of Nutrition Services Darcy Stueber, the district served over two million meals during the pandemic.
Superintendent Paul Peterson said the price return will be a shift for families.
“There still will be opportunities definitely for people to apply for free lunches, and we’re going to do everything we can to encourage people to do so, but that‘s something we’re going to want to make sure people are aware of as they prepare for the next school year,” he said.
Peterson said the district is pushing for the ability to serve free meals to be extended.
“We’re still fighting up in, whether it’s in St. Paul or Washington, we want to continue to make the case that that free lunch and breakfast program, it was a great idea during the pandemic, but it’s also a really, really strong idea for economic stability and food security for kids and their families,” he said. “We haven’t given up, but at this stage in the game, we’re being told that we should be expecting that that is part of the school year.”
In an email statement sent to The Free Press earlier this month, the USDA said, in part: “Without congressional action, our tools to assist program operators are much more limited. USDA announced a few narrow program flexibilities that we can offer, and we stand ready to work with states to leverage those to meet local needs. We are also working diligently to assess how we can further support school food programs in the next school year.”
The school district is still serving free meals during the summer as part of a different program that will continue each year.