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Free lunch apps open, health officials warn of stigma

Selbyville, Del., – The school year is fast approaching and with COVID-19 numbers dropping, the USDA has cut funding to schools for free school lunches.

However, families will now have to qualify to get this free meal for their child. Health officials warn it can impact a child’s mental health.

“We can all agree that hungry students can’t learn,” says Cliff Toomey, superintendent of nutrition services for the Indian River School District.

COVID-19 numbers are down, which means some school districts are changing their free lunch program policies. The Indian River School District is one of them.

“In March 2020 the pandemic started, the USDA released some waivers and flexibilities and provided free meals to all students regardless of eligibility and income which didn’t matter . We still operate the national school lunch and breakfast program, but now, to receive a free or reduced price meal, families would need to complete a Family Meal Benefit Form for this eligibility,” says Cliff Toomey, Indian River School District Nutrition Services Superintendent. .

The backlash of having to request a free lunch now can be more than a financial toll for families. It can also impact students in the classroom.

“Food insecurity is associated with a lack of motivation and lower levels of engagement in the classroom, so children who struggle with food insecurity are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, irritability and that teenagers face a higher rate of developing mental health issues,” says Ian Bolland, public relations manager for Balance Wellness Point.

Just another reason why feeding these students is so important. So, if you are facing food insecurity, now is the time to apply.

“It’s an opportunity for them to get breakfast and lunch every day and for some of our students, unfortunately, these are some of the only square meals they get, but they can definitely take advantage of it. ‘a healthy, well-balanced meal on a daily basis when we’re in session,’ says Cliff Toomey, the Indian River School District’s superintendent of nutrition services.

The first day of school is September 6. School district urges families to fill free lunch application rapidly. For mental health resources, Balance Point Wellness offers nutritional information to minimize this toll on your mental health.