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INDIANA — Parents getting their children ready for the upcoming school year have one less thing to worry about as school districts across the state have access to free school meals for all students.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in April that it would be extending several nationwide waivers to ensure all students receive high-quality, nutritious meals. The department is allowing school districts to provide meals free of charge to families through the 2021-2022 school year.

“It creates open access to all students,” said Sara Gasiorowski, the child nutrition director for M.S.D. Of Wayne Township. “It really takes away that barrier of identifying who’s a paid student and who’s a free student. So it really equalizes the program and it’s an access issue.”

In 2020, the program operated under the summer school meal program umbrella. For the 2021-2022 school district, schools will work under the usual national school lunch program, following the meal pattern of the usual program but with the higher reimbursement of the summer program.

The announcement comes as a group of Democratic Senators are calling to make free school meals a permanent fixture.

Parents will still need to apply for free and reduced-price meals in order to get textbook assistance. For more information about the free and reduced-price meal program, visit the Indiana Department of Education‘s website. To apply for the program for textbook assistance, contact your school district.