by ALEXANDRA RETTER
School meals have been free for all students throughout the pandemic. However, with federal waivers ending at the start of the 2022-2023 school year, districts like Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) will charge for some meals again, as they did before the pandemic. Families can still apply for free or reduced price meals.
While meals are no longer free for everyone, families can qualify based on income for free or reduced price meals. They must fill out an application to qualify. WAPS is working to encourage families to apply for free and reduced price meals. School Board Chair Nancy Denzer said at the board’s July 21 meeting that she would like the district to do whatever it can to encourage families to complete the application. School Board member Stephanie Smith recommended stapling the form to other forms that all families get from the district, such as forms for ordering school pictures.
Communications Director John Casper said in an email that families can apply on paper, and hard copies of the application will be at the district office for families to pick up. Families can also fill out the application online on their Infinite Campus Parent Portal. Applications are available here.
The forms will be available this week, Casper said, and the district plans to email and text families about the application process.
On social media, some community members expressed that families could face difficulties with having to pay for school meals once more. “I think it’s ridiculous that any student has to pay for meals. Meals should be free to all students while in school,” Dan Robertson wrote.
“Sometimes this is the only good meal kids get. It should be free!” Joan Beier wrote.
WAPS is also slightly raising meal prices in the upcoming school year. In the 2022-2023 school year, breakfast will be free, while lunch will cost $2.50 at the elementary level, $2.80 at the middle school level and $2.95 at the high school level.
These prices represent slight increases from the last time meal prices were set. Prices for lunch previously were $2.40 at the elementary level, $2.80 at the middle school level and $2.80 at the high school level. Breakfast was $1.50, except for kindergarten students, for whom it was free.
The School Board approved the new meal prices at their July 21 meeting.