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Local schools providing free breakfasts, lunches to all students; indicate when program could end

Parents in Mid and South County will have one less burden this school year as public schools in Port Arthur, Nederland, Port Neches and Groves as well as Bob Hope School are providing free breakfast and lunch to every student regardless of income eligibility.

“It’s going to be a positive thing,” said Melissa Nunnelly, director of child nutrition at Port Neches-Groves ISD.

Funds are being provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to the pandemic, the department announced earlier this year.

“USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a news release. “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall. USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines. This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”

According to information from the USDA, as many as 12 million U.S. children currently live in households without access to adequate nutrition.

Notices from both Port Neches-Groves and Nederland ISDs indicate the program is not expected to resume in 2022-23. At that time, free and reduced lunches would resume based off income eligibility.

Calls to Tekoa Academy of Accelerated Studies STEM School in Port Arthur were not answered by press time. However, its website features a media release detailing how parents can apply for free and reduced lunches for 2021-22 school year.

Qualification generally follows federal poverty guidelines, and families enrolled in the Texas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are automatically eligible.