Here's What Was Removed From The Keep Kids Fed Act

At the beginning of the pandemic, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a free school lunch waiver program (via The Guardian). This gave all students attending public schools free lunches regardless of their incomes. Those waivers were set to expire on June 30, but were extended earlier when the house passed a bipartisan solution (via The New York Times). The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Biden in the next few days (via The 74 Million). The legislation known as the Keep Kids Fed Act will extend much of the original waiver program, but with some changes that will change lunch programs in the Fall (via NPR).

The end of the waiver program has been a looming specter for some time. When it was not included in the Biden administration's $1.5 trillion spending bill, many advocates feared that the program would be left to expire (via The Guardian). The program added free lunches for more than 10 million American children and also funded meal distributions through the summer. It waived nutritional requirements for schools facing rising food costs and the disrupted supply chain. Many studies have also shown a strong correlation between academic success and adequate nutrition for students.

Income requirements will return in the Fall

The Keep Kids Fed Act will create an extension for many of the original program's waivers, but with some small changes (via The New York Times). The original waivers allowed the USDA to reimburse schools for the cost of lunches. Schools will still be reimbursed under the Keep Kids Fed Act, but at a lower rate than before. The rate is still above the baseline, but the reduced rate comes at a critical time as food prices continue to rise.

Income requirements that were previously waived are currently set to be reinstated at the start of the next school year as well. Before the pandemic, meals were free, reduced-price, or full-price for students depending on their family's income (via NPR). The original waiver program included no income requirements for students to receive free meals. An earlier form of the Keep Kids Fed Act also passed the house with only free and full-price options, but was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who requested that the reduced-price category also return in the Fall.

This legislation comes at a crucial time as food prices continue to rise. Some fear that this legislation still won't be enough to help schools and families get through the year and provide adequate nutrition to students (via The New York Times).