Preparing for back-to-school: Are lunches still free?

Free School Meals
Posted at 10:54 AM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 17:15:09-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – School will be back in session in just over a month for most public schools in Hampton Roads.

As inflation is obvious with grocery prices, some families may be concerned about their budget and buying meals during the school year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all public school students, regardless of their family’s income, were allowed to have free meals at school. That policy has expired, so free lunches, across the board, are not necessarily automatic for students. However, some Virginia lawmakers are working to expand the eligibility for assistance at a state level.

In fact, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed the new state budget which includes $8.2 million over two years to help local school divisions eliminate the cost of school breakfast and lunch for students who are eligible for reduced-price meals based on federal income criteria. That budget took effect July 1.

Some school districts qualify under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Program. That means all of their students would automatically get free breakfast and lunch. According to a spokesperson for Portsmouth Public Schools, this is one district that qualifies for this, so parents in Portsmouth do not have to do anything further.

Meanwhile, some individual schools within a district can be Community Eligible, meaning all students at that particular school would get free lunch.

According to a food service representative at Chesapeake Public Schools, it has 20 schools that fall in this category. Virginia Beach Public Schools has applied to have 27 of its schools be qualified for Community Eligibility.

Meanwhile, families are encouraged to apply for free or reduced meals. They may want to reach out to their district to see exactly how to apply.

Virginia Beach parents can click here for more information.

Chesapeake Public Schools is holding an event this coming Saturday, August 6 where parents can register their child for school, get a physical, and get more information on school meal assistance. It will be held at Oscar Smith Middle School, 2500 Rodgers Street from 1-5pm.

This update is separate from summer feeding locations which are continuing. Parents can text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304304 to find free summer food sites.