July 26, 2023
Alecia Sanders, North Carolina Alliance for Health Partner Engagement Coordinator
If you recall in this prior blog post, Morgan explained that the goal of the General Assembly was to have a budget to the Governor for approval by June 30; however, very rarely does that happen.
Well here we are, in August, without a budget and we are hearing that there are still many things to be hashed out. When the General Assembly does not pass a budget by the start of the fiscal year on July 1, our state operates on a “base budget” and all initiatives that were funded with non-recurring dollars are no longer funded. This is problematic for many programs in North Carolina.
Here’s the thing: children across North Carolina and their families are in a tough position right now. The higher cost of school meals, the loss of pandemic-era benefits, and rising inflation make paying for breakfast and lunch increasingly difficult for many hardworking North Carolina families struggling to make ends meet. Almost 60% of North Carolina students qualify for free and reduced-price meals at school.
The NC General Assembly passed a law in 2011 that covers the reduced-price breakfast copays meaning that students who qualify for reduced-priced meals receive breakfast for free. The reduced-price lunch copay was covered with non-recurring funds in the 2022-2023 school year, meaning the funding expired on June 30 at the end of the fiscal year.
So children who qualify for reduced-priced meals at school will have to pay the copay for their lunch meals this school year. This will be the case until a new budget is passed that includes funding to continue to eliminate the reduced-price lunch copay.
School Meals for All NC is working tirelessly to ensure that legislators know how important it is for the reduced-priced lunch copay to be included in the budget with recurring dollars so that this does not happen moving forward. In the meantime, please continue to contact your legislators and spread the word about the importance of increasing access to school meals.