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St. Johns County schools to end universal free lunch amid supply, staffing issues

school lunch
Damian Dovarganes/AP
California launched the nation's largest statewide universal free lunch program this summer. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The days when all students can grab breakfast or lunch for free at school are coming to an end in St. Johns County.

The school district plans to stop offering free meals to all students starting December 1.  During the pandemic, the district has been opting into a USDA waiver program providing no-cost meals for students, regardless of income.

But now — according to a note to parents on Monday from the director of food and nutrition services
— covid-related nationwide disruptions to supply and a local labor shortage are causing a strain.   

"In short, we’re having trouble getting foods, supplies and staff to support our program," wrote Sean Prevatt.

The message notes, students may already notice different items are being served than what’s listed on the menu.  

To reduce the demand, the district is asking families of students who qualify for free or reduced meals based on family income to re-apply here.

Students not eligible, based on income, will have to start paying $1.25 for breakfast and between $2.80 and $2.95 for lunch, depending on grade level.