For the Record: Federal waivers for school lunches ending; Gableman held in contempt

For the Record: Pandemic-era federal waivers for school lunches ending

A pandemic-era federal program providing waivers to school districts to provide free lunches for students regardless of financial standing is coming to an end this month after Congress failed to extend the program earlier this year.

The program started in March 2020 when Congress implemented child nutrition waivers which allowed school districts to be reimbursed at a higher level for providing free meals to children, regardless of their ability to pay.

For some families in Dane County and across the nation facing food insecurity, the end of the federal waivers could mean struggling to feed their little ones, especially over the summer.

The end of the waiver program returns the country to a pre-pandemic system, where children pay either full or part price for lunches unless they submit paperwork proving they qualify for free.

“The requirement for families to fill out free and reduced meal applications is incredibly burdensome to working families. People don’t want to fill out the forms because they don’t want the stigma of free and reduced,” said Rep. Kristina Shelton of Green Bay.

Shelton has introduced a bill in the past legislative session that would make the program permanent in Wisconsin — a bill that didn’t get a hearing. The Republican lawmaker who chairs the education committee didn’t respond to a request for comment, but party leaders in the past have said the pre-pandemic system was working and didn’t need fixing.

“One of the biggest issues we hear from school districts is the supply chain issues they’re facing,” Shelton said. “These waivers allowed food service departments to work through those shortcomings in the supply chain to still feed kids.”

Watch her full interview above.

For the Record: Local groups step up to fill the gap

In Sun Prairie, a collaborative of nonprofits led by Sun Prairie Community Schools is working to make sure all kids can access a free lunch this summer. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, volunteers make three neighborhood stops throughout Sun Prairie to hand out free lunches to kids who need them, no questions asked.

The initiative started in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and continued through last summer with funding from federal waivers. Now, without that funding, the program relies mainly on funding from the city of Sun Prairie’s federal Covid relief funds–as well as donations and support from community partners like Secondhand Harvest food bank, local food banks and Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Community Schools director Jamie Racine says they’re still working on meeting the needs even after the end of the federal waiver program.

“We knew there would still be a need, so we brought everyone to the table and talked about what we could do, a solution, an idea, to keep kids fed, and this is what we came up with,” said Racine.

Other summer lunch programs:

According to a spokesperson, Middleton-Cross Plains school district families throughout summer break can receive free meals for all students ages 18 and younger beginning June 13th, 2022, and ending on August 11th, 2022, Monday through Thursday.

A spokesperson for Madison Metropolitan School District said they were no longer providing waivers, and had transitioned back to their pre-pandemic system.

For the Record: Gableman held in contempt; other political headlines

Cap Times political reporter Jack Kelly also joined For the Record to discuss some of the biggest political headlines in Wisconsin this week, including Michael Gableman, former Supreme Court justice and current leader for the Assembly elections investigation.

Tim Michels will also be on the primary ballot for governor in Wisconsin, after a challenge based on address technicalities and backed by the state Democratic party failed to get backing at a meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Watch the full interview above.