USDA waiver provides free meals for San Antonio area school districts

Free meals are available for all students regardless of economic factors

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 file photo, a student carries her lunch on a compostable tray at an elementary school in Utah. After making a brief comeback on school lunch menus, white bread and other refined grains may be vanishing again when schools reopen after a federal court vacated the Trump administrations rollback of school nutrition standards on Monday, April 13, 2020. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP) (Kristin Murphy)

SAN ANTONIO – Many school districts in San Antonio and across the country have announced that free breakfast and lunch will be available for all students during the 2021-2022 school year.

Schools would not be able to do this if not for USDA approval.

In 2020, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food Nutrition Services (FNS) established a nationwide opt-in waiver that allowed states to provide free meals in their districts.

The waivers were granted under the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act and allowed districts to give out free meals despite remote learning in schools.

This was made possible through the extension of the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option.

Both summer food options are typically available for schools in lower income areas to provide meals for students throughout the summer.

However, the extension allowed for free meals to be available throughout the whole school year and to all areas regardless of economic factors.

It also allowed for parents to pick-up weeks worth of meals and provided flexibility as to what schools could serve students.

While the waiver was set to expire in December 2020, it was extended to last the full 2020-2021 school year.

The USDA was able to provide a waiver to schools once again by extending the National School Lunch Program and Seamless Summer Option to last throughout the 2021-2022 school year.

Districts in San Antonio have said that the income eligibility requirement for free lunches are expected to resume in the 2022-2023 school year.

About the Author:

Emily Martin is the KSAT Insider Membership Producer. She earned a journalism degree from Texas State University, where she was news director at KTSW, the campus radio station. She has also interned at KXAN and KUT in Austin.