KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County parents and students will need to plan for meals in the coming school year after an announcement shared from the school district during the final week of the 2021-22 academic year.
The Knox County Schools director of school nutrition shared in an email sent to parents Monday that free meals for all students will not be extended for the 2022-23 school year. An application window will open after July 1 for free or reduced meals.
Since fall 2020, all Knox County Schools students had had the option of eating free breakfast and lunch meals regardless of income status or school attended thanks to federal government waivers.
Now, the federal government at this time has not extended the waivers necessary to continue this program, according to KCS executive director of school nutrition Brett Foster. Because of this, the only students who will receive no-cost or reduced-price meals during the 2022-23 school year are the students whose free and reduced-price meal application has been approved.
The application for free and reduced-price meals for the 2022-23 school year can be viewed after July 1.
“Please keep in mind that this change is based on current guidance from the federal government,” Foster stated in the email sent out Monday. “If changes are made to this guidance, we will inform families promptly.”
In March 2020, Knox County Schools had begun to provide free meals through community partnerships to any child under 18 years of age at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Tennessee, when the district closed schools early before spring break citing “public health developments” related to COVID-19. The school district then organized community distribution lists and dates for families of students to pick up meals.
The free meals for all students program began in September 2020, when a federal waiver program from the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA had funded and extended the free meals for all students in Knox County Schools.