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Changes to school lunch funding mean many parents will once again have to pay

Pandemic relief money will no longer supplement school meals, leaving parents not eligible for free or reduced lunch to pay a higher bill than before COVID.

CLEVELAND — Many Northeast Ohio students head back to school next week, and with the new year comes an old breakfast and lunch protocol: Charging the families that can afford to pay. 

For the past 2 years, the USDA offered free breakfast and lunch to all students through the National School Lunch Program, but those COVID relief funds are no longer being offered. A little more than 30% of Lakewood families qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch, but the rest will have to pay, Assistant Superintendent Christine Palumbo confirms.

"The cost for breakfast is $1.75, and that's at both elementary and secondary level," Palumbo said. "The cost for lunch — if you're not eligible for free or reduced — at the elementary level, it's $2.50, and at the secondary level, the cost is $3."

We checked out other districts' lunch prices, and they're pretty comparable. For instance, students in Hudson will pay $3-$3.50 for lunch. In Avon Lake kids in kindergarten though fourth grade will pay $2.75, fifth through eighth will pay $3, and high schoolers will pay $3.25. Twinsburg pupils will pay $3.

Like everything else, school district prices for breakfast & lunch have gone up. You might notice a 50 to 60-cent jump from what you paid before COVID. Cleveland, East Cleveland, Lorain, Akron, and Canton public schools will continue to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students, no matter the grade level.

"I would remind them that if they think they might be eligible for free or reduced lunch, go to PaySchoolsCentral.com," Palumbo advised.

The online portal allows parents to pay school fees and also check eligibility for school lunch programs. Many of their incomes have changed since before COVID, so those who may not have qualified before may qualify now.


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