Wisconsin school district opts out of free lunch program for students

A Wisconsin district's school board has opted out of a federal program providing all students free lunch, making it the only district in the state to do so, according to WISN

The school board in Waukesha had opted into the program when it began in 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic but decided not to renew its status going into the school year.

"As we get back to whatever you want to believe is normal, we have decisions to make," Joseph Como, the school board's president, said in a June meeting. "I would say this is part of normalization." 

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Another board member said the program enabled families to "become spoiled," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Some Waukesha parents spoke out against the school board's decision, arguing that the federal program helped take away the stigma from low-income families who benefited from their children receiving free lunch. 

"I think after everything we've been through in the last 18 months, anything we can do to help these families and help these kids with the basic necessities of life is so important," foster parent Chrissy Sebald told WISN.

Food Pantry of Waukesha Executive Director Karen Tredwell told WISN that the surge in cases caused by the delta variant could result in an increase in families who would find the program "very beneficial."

The Waukesha School District argued that the necessity of the program has decreased, saying that it has seen a 60 percent decrease in families using it, according to WISN. 

Waukesha students from low-income households will still be able to apply for free or reduced-price meal options under the National School Lunch Program, the Sentinel notes. 

The Biden administration announced in April that the free lunch program would be extended into 2022.