Free Lunch at Nonnewaug Ends After Dec. 23

A+variety+of+free+lunch+options+has+been+available+for+Nonnewaug+students+since+the+start+of+the+2020-21+school+year%2C+but+funding+for+free+lunch+ends+over+the+holiday+break.

Brian Root

A variety of free lunch options has been available for Nonnewaug students since the start of the 2020-21 school year, but funding for free lunch ends over the holiday break.

Brian Root, Reporter

WOODBURY — During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nonnewaug High School lunch was free for the students. Lots of families struggled during the pandemic and free lunch helped students and their parents pay for other things. Now that the negative impact of COVID has weakened, students and staff are starting to wonder when free lunch will end.

Tamika Lui-Amaral, the regional cafeteria manager, confirmed that Dec. 23 will be the last day of free lunch. When students return from the holiday break Jan. 3, they will have to resume paying for lunch.

Even since COVID has died down, students appreciate being able to get free lunch. Nonnewaug senior Chris Koemp is among those students who will be disappointed when free lunch ends after the holiday break.

ā€œI do like it because I don’t have to bring a lunch box every day with prepared food,ā€ Koemp said.

The free lunch makes life easier for the students. It allows them to not have to bring and prepare lunch, so it saves time while saving money for the students. According to the School Nutrition Association, the average high school lunch cost $2.74 in 2018.

Extrapolating that figure over 180 school days, it costs an average of $493.20 if a student buys school lunch every day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 57% of people living in the U.S. had complications in their work due to COVID, such as being unable to work. Especially with a lot of families losing their jobs during COVID, even subtracting that $493.20 per student helped families by possibly putting that money towards bills.

If the free lunch is such a good thing, why is it ending? A bill was passed on Aug. 2 under the subject of ā€œSchool Meals Assistance Revenue for Transition (SMART) Funds,ā€ and it worked by putting a large amount of money towards Connecticut school lunches.

$30 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds from 2021 were allocated to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) for the Free School Meals for Children grant. Region 14 was allocated $229,672.64 of those funds for free lunch, according to the Department of Education.

In the end, free lunch is a great thing for the students attending Nonnewaug and helped a lot, especially during the pandemic. Unfortunately, Nonnewaug can’t do this forever as the funding for free lunch dries up.