School districts no longer offer free meals to all students due to federal waiver expiration

The federal COVID waiver expires this school year

HOUSTON – The federal waiver that helped school districts provide free meals to all students for the last two years expired at the end of the last school year.

Students getting ready to head back to school for the 2022-2023 school year will have to fill out an application – as families did before the pandemic – to qualify for free, reduced, or paid meals.

The online application went live Monday for Pasadena ISD and Fort Bend ISD.

“The funding is still there, it’s the waivers that allow us to feed everybody free that expired with our last day of school for 2021-2022,” said Matt Antignolo with FBISD. “The reimbursement rates that we get from the USDA are still coming. We’ll still be getting paid for those free and reduced meals.”

Matt Antignolo is the Executive Director of Child Nutrition for Fort Bend ISD. He said if a student attends one of the 28 schools in the district offering the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), breakfast and lunch will be free to all students at those schools. Districts across the Houston area also said they’re reverting to the school meal application process they had in place prior to COVID-19.

Students will also return to eating lunch in person in the cafeterias.

“Anybody that qualifies, will qualify. We actually will take applications all the way up to the last day of school,” Antignolo said. “If mom and dad don’t apply today, they could actually apply on May 1. They might miss out on a bunch of free meals or reduced-price meals, but we don’t limit and we don’t really turn parents away.”

School meal online applications: