HELENA — For two years, USDA funding allowed Helena Public Schools to offer free breakfast and lunch waivers for students, no matter their income levels. However, on June 10 the waiver expires, so the HPS Food Services will return to pre-pandemic operations.
“For a child to receive a free meal, which we can still do this year, free meals for children 1-18, they have to be present in order to receive a meal, and they must eat the meals on-site,” said Robert Worthy, Director of Food Services for Helena Public Schools.
Beginning on June 13, the summer meal program will have specific times and locations for breakfast and lunch instead of kids being able to get multi-meal packs.
Another change will be coming to the summer meal program. Two locations that served 35 percent of meals will no longer be available.
“With the waivers expiring, we will lose some of the opportunities we also had, which were places like Jim Darcy and Rossiter Elementary. We no longer can serve that far out in the valley,” said Worthy.
The expiring waivers don't just impact the summer meal program, it also means the end of free lunch and breakfast for all students, regardless of family income, during the school year.
When students return in the fall parents will have to apply for free and reduced price lunch or breakfast.
“There’s a lot of families in need still, and it is going to be interesting to see how this goes over the next year,” said Worthy.
Over the past two years, the HPS Food Service served over 2 million meals to students.
To find out how to sign up for free or reduced lunch for 2022-2023 school year you can visit the HPS website.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated for clarity.