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Federal funding for free school lunches about to expire, causing anxiety

Federal funding for free school lunches about to expire
Federal funding for free school lunches about to expire 02:06

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- The CARES Act and several COVID-19 relief packages approved by Congress for temporary food funding in public schools will expire soon.

There is anxiety among nutrition experts, parents and staff in school cafeterias, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.

Mike Jarama, a junior at Southampton High School, is one of 800,000 school children across New York state on the verge of losing free school meals.

"Very unfair because not all of us has resources to pay for all these foods," Jarama said.

When COVID created chaos, the Southampton district came up with a seemingly endless array of meal options for breakfast and lunch.

"The pandemic certainly did create a lot of problems, but one of the problems was solved by the federal government funding the free food," said Dean Daley, a junior at Southampton High School.

The funding will dry up on June 30 for most schools districts, according to Hunger Solutions New York, unless a family of four makes less than $51,000 or for those higher-need districts that qualify (Hempstead, Wyandanch, Roosevelt and Uniondale on Long Island).

But hundreds of others worry.

"I don't like the idea that we are taking a step back," Southampton Public Schools nutrition director Regan Kiembock said. "We are a diverse district out here in Southampton."

Nearly 50 percent of students there are food insecure.

"I am part of the free lunch program and hearing this is kind of shocking," said Yenifer Chavez, a senior at Southampton High School.

Parents don't have the funds to dole out.

Ana Trinidad, a senior at Southampton High School, said $3.15 to buy lunch is a lot.

"We are at an all-time high in terms of costs for families to feed their children. Meanwhile, all these pandemic supports are just falling away," said Jessica Pino-Goodspeed from Hunger Solutions New York.

The state education department is asking the New York Congressional Delegation to push Capitol Hill to extent the program. Thus far, efforts have stalled.

Some states are now budgeting for free meals and the movement is gaining national momentum. No more student shaming or debt collecting.

"Your brain needs food to do its best," one student said.

"Kids need to eat so that can have more energy throughout the day," another student said.

"I'm really hoping New York and the federal government step up and get this done," Kiembock said.

Educators say feeding kids is what works.

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