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All Hawaii public school students to receive free meals during 2021-22 academic year

The Hawaii Department of Education announced Thursday that every student enrolled in the state’s 257 public schools will receive free breakfast and lunch meals during the entire 2021-22 academic year.

The meals will be offered due to a nationwide waiver granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that aims to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by eliminating meal payment transactions in school cafeterias — settings where students and cashiers may not be able to maintain proper social distancing.

Federal funds will reimburse state education departments for meal costs.

“No family will have to pay for food through their registered school site, which is very exciting,” state Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told the Board of Education.

According to the department, parents and guardians who have not yet purchased meal credits for the upcoming school year via the EZMealApp mobile app or through their school do not need to take any action.

Those who have already purchased meal credits in advance may choose to leave funds in the account for the following school year or contact their child’s school to request a refund.

Students will only receive meals at their school of enrollment. While breakfast and lunch will be free, additional meals or food items taken at the same session will be charged a normal rate, officials said.

“This has been a challenging time for our ohana, and I am proud to continue our safety net support through actions that improve food security for our students while providing economic relief for our families,” Kishimoto said in a news release. “The health and safety of our haumana continues to be our top priority, and as we fully reopen schools to in-person learning, this waiver will allow for a more efficient, contactless experience for students and our food service team.”

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