MISSOURI — A pandemic federal funding boost may be winding down — shrinking options for free meals at schools.

Federal lawmakers are unlikely to give the feeding program another extension.

The expansion started early in the pandemic — offering breakfast and lunch to all students. Dropping the roughly $11 billion expense would mean families would have to apply to see if they qualify for a free or reduced cost.

Joplin officials are encouraging families to apply now.

“Even though two, three years ago they did qualify for free meals due to an application. So that’s probably going to be our biggest challenge is day one, students standing in line with no money thinking that they’re going to get free meals,” said Rick Kenkel, Joplin Schools Nutrition Svcs.

Joplin parents can apply in-person at school, or on the District’s website by following this link.