The old phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” will once again apply to the majority of students in Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

The federal government had made school meals free of charge for all students, regardless of income, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.

But in a new message, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton says that a nationwide federal policy change means free school meals for everyone (breakfast and lunch) will no longer be available in 2022-23.

The practice reverts to what it was for decades: free only for low income students, and they must re-apply.

According to District 65 documents, 31% of the system’s roughly 6,800 students were low-income eligible in the school year that just ended.

The district did not say, however, how many students, regardless of income, actually took advantage of the free breakfast and lunch.

Nationally, the average school lunch costs a student about $2.50 if they are paying full price.

Reduced price meals in District 65 are $0.30 for breakfast and $0.40 for lunch.

During this summer, children can get free breakfasts and lunches at several locations around Evanston, from the Parks and Recreation Department. It’s first come-first served, and there are no income restrictions.

Once the next school year starts in August, even if some students will have to start paying for meals, school supplies will still be free for everyone in District 65.

As was done in 2021-22, the superintendent says, “In support of our families, the District will purchase school supplies for all students and have them ready in the classroom on Day 1. There will be no supply lists or fees.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. It’s lovely that the school district is purchasing school supplies to all of its students these days, on the one hand. At the same time, for families with higher incomes, the annual ritual of purchasing school supplies can be a time honored and valued tradition…or, as I’ve learned recently, for some, one can order the supplies online and have them delivered in time for the start of school.
    I’m wondering whether this generosity on the part of D65 could perhaps be better utilized for other needed services across the district…perhaps it was too unwieldy to figure out how to get folks to fill out the necessary paperwork to prove income eligibility for free supplies, which may have resulted in some students simply not having what they needed as school begins…
    If there were a simple, creative solution to this challenge, it might be great to change the policy…perhaps folks could “opt out” of the free supplies, if there’s no need, and therefore save the District some cash. It might be unlikely for even affluent parents to pass up a free service, however.

  2. I would be interested in knowing the additional cost. I hope our district can find a way to continue having food available. Just because a family doesn’t ‘qualify’ doesn’t mean there may not be need for some children.

  3. What amount of money would it take to provide school meals to students regardless of income?

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