SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A significant impact from the lack of pandemic funding could be felt in canteens across the country and right here in Utah.
This funding included waivers for school lunch programs.
The loss of these waivers is to local school districts.
The federal government has until Friday to decide whether it wants to keep the pandemic waivers for school meals.
For now, it is not included in the $1.5 trillion spending bill.
The Salt Lake City School District and Granite Schools both said there would be serious consequences if this is not continued.
The spending plan approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday is missing a key element according to the School Nutrition Association; one that some Utah school districts say will leave them scrambling.
“It will be devastating,” said Kelly Orton, child nutrition director for the Salt Lake City School District.
School districts like the Salt Lake City School District will face serious consequences if the federal government removes pandemic waivers for school lunch programs.
“We won’t have the funds to support the rising cost of fuel and labor and everything that’s going on around us,” Orton said.
The waivers allowed schools to provide free meals to all students and expand meal services in communities.
Orton said without an extension, schools would cut summer lunch programs and face major problems.
“As a result, school districts across the country, including the Salt Lake School District, are going to have to seek out our own taxpayers, our own funding through school districts, and pull that funding out of textbooks and schools,” Orton said.
Ben Horsley of Granite Schools said there could also be issues.
“Yes and no,” Horsley said. “This is going to impact our families and again, eligible families will still be able to receive free or reduced price lunches. All they have to do is complete the application.
The federal program did not require an application, and as it stands, it expires on June 30.
Orton said he and state superintendents are calling on community members for help.
Child nutrition staff in Salt Lake schools are 30% understaffed.
“We really need manpower,” Orton said. “We need people to help serve lunch. We don’t have enough people to serve lunch. We are closing our service lines because we don’t have enough staff. So if we had people from the community to help us serve lunch, that would help us tremendously. »
Orton said he and his colleagues want Congress to extend the program for at least another year so they can put a plan in place.
From now on, if the program expires, Orton said school lunch prices could be $5 per meal and funds for teachers, textbooks and technology will have to be cut.
Locally, there are always free and reduced lunches offered, however, districts have said that these meals will cost them, the district itself, more, and they will have to figure out how to pay for them as gas is more expensive, food is more expensive and there is a labor shortage.
If you are interested in working in school cafeterias in Salt Lake City, click here.
For Granite Schools, click here.