WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — For two years, all Houston County students have had the opportunity to eat lunch for free at school thanks to federal pandemic funds.
Now that those funds have run dry, your child could be seeing some changes in the cafeteria.
After two years of serving all students free lunch, things are returning back to the way they were pre-pandemic.
"The USDA allowed all children to eat at no cost in order to ease the burden of the pandemic that families were feeling," Potter said.
Meredith Potter, Houston County's Director of School Nutrition, says families now need to apply to know how much their child will have to pay.
"Now, we're transitioning back to pre-COVID processes where some of our kids will need to apply for free or reduced meals using the free or reduced meals application," she continued.
Half of Houston County schools qualify for free breakfast and lunch for all students because their neighborhoods meet federal income guidelines. At the other 19 schools, parents must apply to get free or reduced meal for their kids.
"So we're encouraging all families to fill out an application prior to school so they can go ahead and know if their family qualifies for free or reduced meals, because when they enter school on the first day, they'll be charged according to their status," she explained.
The application's reach extends beyond the lunchroom, affecting funding to support all students.
"Students can receive discounts on standardized testing if they qualify for free or reduced meals. It also provides funding for additional supplies or staff or equipment," she said about the support.
On August 1 when students go back to the classrooms, Potter says there's no need to worry.
"Regardless of what their student's status is on that first day of school, we're going to feed them with smiles and we're glad they're back in the building and we can continue to serve them," she said.
Potter says parents who want their child considered for free or reduced lunch outside the qualifying schools should apply before August 1.
Houston County schools aren't the only ones who are set to see these changes. Jones County is another district ending free meals for all kids.