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School lunch programs in trouble from government shutdown

The federal government shutdown may impact kids with free and reduced lunch at school.

Right now, there’s enough money to pay for the lunch programs through the rest of October. But come November, students in School District 25 and across the nation may feel the effects of the government shutdown firsthand.

“We get federal funds for a lot of programs,” said Superintendent Mary Vagner after Tuesday’s work session at the school district offices, “but the School Food Service Program is a month-by-month reimbursement.”

The school board discussed other difficulties with the lunch program, where students in the district have racked up about $8,000 in meals they have yet to pay for.

“The reality is that we’ve been managing that debt very well,” Vagner said. “We’ve been working on collecting, but we’re not collectors.”

Vagner said the shutdown is an additional problem because for some kids, school lunch may be the only meal they get. She says the school district simply does not have the money to cover the potential cost.

“And of course then comes the problem of what do you do for lunch if the kids don’t have the money to pay for it,” said Vagner. She added there are no backup funds available, no other plans and no actions for the school board to take.

She said they will be waiting with the rest of the nation to see when our nation’s leaders decide on a budget.

“We don’t have any idea what may happen if the shutdown goes further or if it affects funding for November,” Vagner said.

There are 12,600 kids in School District 25. More than half of those kids get free or reduced lunch.

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