Isle of Wight schools resume charging for breakfast, lunch

Published 8:36 pm Friday, August 19, 2022

Isle of Wight County Schools will resume charging students for breakfast and lunch during the 2022-23 school year.

When schools shuttered in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted waivers to every public school system in the nation, allowing them to provide free take-home meals to students regardless of family income. As schools reopened and returned to normal operations over the next two years, the USDA allowed the waivers to remain in place.

Now, the waivers have expired, meaning students will once again have to pay to receive breakfast and lunch, unless their families qualify for free or reduced pricing.

On Aug. 11, the Isle of Wight County School Board voted unanimously to set a cost of $1.30 for elementary school breakfasts and $2.65 for elementary school lunches. For middle and high school students, breakfasts will cost $1.35 and lunches will cost $2.85.

The prices reflect a 10-cent increase from those of the 2019-20 school year when IWCS last collected payment.

Adult breakfast pricing for faculty and parents is unchanged at $2.25, but adult lunches will now cost $4 – a 50-cent increase from the 2019-20 school year price.

According to USDA eligibility guidelines for the 2022-23 school year, to qualify for reduced-price meals a student’s family can earn up to 185% of the federal poverty line, meaning an annual household income of $42,606 or less for a family of three. For free meals, the cap is 130% of the poverty line, or a household income of $29,939 for a family of three.

According to Todd Christiansen, IWCS director of support services, the Virginia Department of Education has increased its reimbursement rate to allow anyone who qualifies for reduced-price will receive meals for free.

It was already IWCS practice to provide free breakfast in pre-pandemic years for students whose families qualified for reduced-price, “but now lunch will also be free,” Christiansen said.

As of the 2019-20 school year, just over 2,100 of the school system’s then-roughly 5,400 students qualified for free or reduced-price meals. Since then, the school system’s student population has risen to just over 5,500.