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Friday, March 31, 2023

90,000 MN students to get free school meals based on Medicaid enrollment

According to a pilot program that automatically qualifies children who are registered in Medicaid, an additional 90,000 Minnesota schoolchildren will get free lunches at school this year, Governor Tim Walz stated on Monday.

Students typically qualify for free meals at school in one of two ways: either their parents fill out a form certifying that their family income is low enough, or their school “directly certifies” the student based on their enrollment in other government assistance programs, such as SNAP (previously known as food stamps) or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (WIC).

According to Walz’s office, Minnesota is one of the eight states selected for this year’s U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program that would directly certify Medicaid participants for free school meals.

According to a news release from Walz, “this initiative means fewer kids will go hungry at school next year, and we know that’s the number one way we can help students achieve.”

According to Walz, the Medicaid option increases the number of children who are immediately qualified for free lunches by nearly 202,041 students. 90,000 of those are thought to not have registered for free meals.

However, the effect is likely to be bigger than those 90,000, both in terms of the financial impact on school districts and the number of children receiving free lunches.

A school or group of schools may be eligible for free meals for all students under the Community Eligibility Provision if at least 40% of their students are directly certified. Schools that reach 62.5 percent may do so at no additional cost to the school district because federal reimbursements will fully cover the meal costs.

In order to offer free lunches to all kids at the 18 schools that still qualify for the program but no longer qualify at the full reimbursement rate, St. Paul Public Schools earlier stated its intention to spend $1.7 million the next academic year.

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, Congress offered free lunches to all students throughout each of the previous two academic years, regardless of family income. However, this advantage is now ending.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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