PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A newly-proposed government rule could eliminate automatic eligibility for tens of thousands of kids in Oregon and Washington who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an analysis that says as many as 982,000 children across the country could be affected by the change. About half would have to pay a reduced price of 40 cents for school lunch and 30 cents for breakfast. Around 40,000 would need to pay the full price, which varies depending on the district.
The rest — 445,000 — would remain eligible for free meals, but their families would have to apply to qualify.
But many families might not feel comfortable with visiting schools to fill out the paperwork. Some Oregon school districts like Salem-Keizer where 70% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches say language literacy and homelessness are barriers that could prevent families from coming in to sign up.
Others worry schools that serve free meals to all students might lose their funding.
“The way schools become eligible is based on the number of students automatically certified for SNAP,” said Matt Newell-Ching with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. “When you lose that certification, that hurts the entire school community and schools that do universal meals reduce stigma.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.