Meal program leads to reduction of at-risk funding

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

The Lansing superintendent said a federal program that has been providing reimbursement for school meals for all students has led to a reduction in funding for students who are considered at risk.

Superintendent Dan Wessel said Monday during a meeting of the Lansing Board of Education that at-risk funding the district receives from the state traditionally has been impacted by the number of students who, based on family income, qualify for free school lunches or lunches at a reduced price.

“That number did go down this year,” he said.

He said the number of parents who apply for free or reduced meal prices for their children has been impacted by the federal government providing funding for meals for children regardless of family income.

“All students are now eating for free,” Wessel said.

He raised the issue when discussing a projected end of the year cash balance for the school district.

Free meals are being offered to students regardless of income through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that in the past was used to provide free meals to children during the summer. Schools were allowed to use this program in the spring of 2020 after in-person classes were halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USDA has continued to allow schools to utilize the program during the current school year. And the USDA has announced the program will continue to be offered for the next school year.

Wessel said the Kansas State Department of Education has created a form that can help the Lansing school district calculate at-risk funding. He said Lansing parents will be asked to fill out the form at the time of enrollment.

Wessel said income information may qualify families for assistance other than free meals.

“We waive other fees, not just lunch fees,” he said.

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