Why School Lunches Are Free This Year

Estrella Jones, Staff Writer

For the 2021-2022 school year, all schools in Fayette County will be providing lunch and breakfast for free.

“Again for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, meals will be provided at no cost for students in Fayette County Public Schools. Students will receive free breakfast and lunch each day. ” says the Fayette County website. “The Georgia Dept. of Education School Nutrition Program extended the Seamless Summer Option for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program for 2021-2022, allowing school districts to offer meals at no charge to all students.”

School lunches haven’t always been free, however beginning in 2020 Fayette county schools received enough funding for lunch to be free. Leon Hammond, assistant principal and athletic director for Mcintosh Highschool, said “Last year the school district decided to provide free lunches for all students in the county due to COVID-19…This small gesture helps to ensure that every student can receive at least two meals a day.”

Free lunches are for the benefit of all students especially those who have experienced financial hardship during the COVID pandemic. The US Bureau of labor statistics writes about the recent drop in employment in the United States, “total civilian employment fell by 8.8 million over the year, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought the economic expansion to a sudden halt, taking a tremendous toll on the U.S. labor market.” Because of the financial hardships experienced due to lost jobs and decreased paychecks during the pandemic, it was harder for people to provide for their families. Free lunches also provide convenience to students’ lives.

Sophomore Sana Ansari says “School lunches have helped me because now I don’t have to wake up early and make my lunch, which makes my mornings convenient.” School lunches have been helpful to many students because of financial and time management reasons.

Although students are not paying for lunches, student IDs are still required, this is because of the need to know how much inventory is being used. Shelly Smiley, a lunch lady at McIntosh High school comments on why students have to enter their student IDs after picking up their lunch saying, “We still have to keep track of how many are eating each day and that is the way we do it by student ID.”

The number of people eating lunches is tracked because of inventory purposes. Jeri Drake, cafeteria manager, and school nutritionist says, “each lunch served receives reimbursement, another reason for tracking student IDs.”

Because lunches are now free, students might wonder if lunch being free has affected the quality of the lunches in any way. As school cafeteria worker Shelley Smiley says, “the lunchroom workers take great pride in preparing and cooking the meals for the students. We eat the same food as the students do when we go on our lunch break.”

School Lunch workers, students, and staff alike are enjoying free school lunches and their always fresh and healthy quality. Hammond also does not think the quality of school lunches has been affected by the change, but he does think that the amount of food the school is ordering has increased he says, “However, I do think it affects the number/allotment of items or inventory we receive since we are serving more students.”

Many students are buying lunches now just because they are free, this causes the school to gain the need for more inventory, but also keeps every student fed.

Free school lunches have positively affected McIntosh because they are only to help children, financially struggling or not. Drake says, “I have been working in the county School Nutrition Program(SNP) for 26 years. I have a wonderful staff and we are proud to be part of McIntosh High school. We are here for the students and their needs for every meal we serve.”

Fayette County Board of Education
The US Bureau of Labor statistics