Trump administration proposal could cut free or reduced lunch for local students

For a lot of kids in school, lunchtime is the best time. Not only for the break, but because that meal may be the only one they’re sure to get each day.

Now, the Trump administration is considering a change which could kick tens of thousands of kids off from the free and reduced lunch program. Nearly 60% of Spokane Public School students get free or reduced price lunches and breakfasts. In Kootenai County, it’s nearly 50% of all students. If the trump administration gets the change they’re pushing for, half of those students would no longer get a free lunch.

Across the country that’s almost half a million kids. Tens of thousands of them would have to pay full price, more than $3 a day for lunch and roughly $2 for breakfast.

It can be easy to forget just how much and how easily the cost of school lunch can add up for one student. In Spokane, your middle or high school student spends $3.50 on one lunch meal with milk.

Multiply that by five for lunch Monday to Friday, and that’s $17.50 a week. That’s just for one student, if you have more than one kid, it’s more.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t include breakfast. One breakfast in middle and high school in Spokane costs $1.60. That’s another $8 a week. For breakfast and lunch, parents can rack up about $30 on their kids meals a week. That’s more than $100 a month.

But if a student gets reduced lunch, their meal price goes down to just $0.40, and breakfast is free.

4 News Now spoke with Mead School District Thursday afternoon. They said their district has 1,124 students who are directly certified for free meal benefits by the state.

Mead SD said, based on USDA’s estimate, 45% of those students will no longer be directly certified for free meals if the Trump administration’s plan goes through. However, they still may qualify based on income level, but they’ll have to apply for the reduction.

According to Mead SD, 55% would no longer be eligible for free meals but may qualify for reduced price meals. An estimated 4% would not qualify anymore for the program and would have to pay full price for meals.

Both Mead and Spokane schools said the challenge is getting applications filled out.

“Having families fill out the free and reduced price application has always been a barrier,” said Garrett Berdan, supervisor for nutrition services at Spokane Public Schools.

Mead SD said the delay could increase the number of students behind in paying for their lunches and even cause some kids to go without any food.

“So it would change our tactic on our outreach when it comes time to fill out those application forms,” Berdan said.

For Coeur d’Alene School District, their numbers are higher. The district told 4 News Now there are 2,226 students eligible for free meals. Spokane Public Schools said they also have around 2,000.

“We are aware that for several of our families in Spokane Public Schools, the meals and snacks that they receive at school, may be some of the few nutritious meals and snacks that they receive for the week,” Berdan said.

They say health and education go hand in hand. It’s not easy to learn if you’re hungry.

“We don’t want to see that go away for any of our students. We know that nourished students are better learners,” Berdan said.​​ “They behave better in the classroom. They perform better, and we want to make sure that our students are always nourished as best they can be.”

Nothing is finalized just yet on the rule. The USDA said it would reopen the public comment period on the rule for two weeks to get feedback potential impact. Local school districts do encourage you to take part.