Some Horry County parents worry after federal free student meal program expires

(AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - For the past two years, school districts across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee were able to provide free meals to all students, thanks to waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last week, the federal free school meal waiver program expired.

The change comes as other federal supports like expanded child tax credits ended and as prices soar for food and gas. Advocates say families are still struggling, even those whose kids were not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Now, parents whose income qualifies will need to fill out an application for students to benefit from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

For parents like Amanda Motsinger, packing a school lunch takes a lot of time and money.

With the expiration of the free meal program, Motsinger says she isn’t looking as forward to the school year ahead as usual.

“It’s a big headache to have to account for extra meals especially if you have multiple kids,” said Motsinger. “You’re going through a lot of your basic necessities, you’re food that you’re planning for your weeknight meals if you’re having to pack those lunches every day.”

The application for meal waivers can be found on the Horry County Schools website or by clicking here.

Horry County Schools’ 2022 Summer Break Café program continues through July. For locations, dates and times, click here.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is typically the Nation’s second-largest food and nutrition assistance program. NSLP operates in nearly 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools (grades PK-12) and residential child care institutions. On average, the NSLP provided low-cost or free lunches to 29.6 million children each school day in fiscal year (FY) 2019, at a total cost of $14.2 billion.

National School Lunch Program lunches served and share free or reduced priced, Fiscal years...
National School Lunch Program lunches served and share free or reduced priced, Fiscal years 1971 - 2020(USDA)

Summer meal programs are not affected by this expiration.