SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KCAU)– In January, the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021 ended. Now schools around Siouxland are seeing rising food costs without government aid.

The Universal School Meals Program provided free meals to students regardless of income and reimbursed schools for student meal debt.

“It was a great opportunity for families that were hurting from COVID-19 financially to be able to not have to worry about meals for the students,” said Chad Janzen, superintendent with Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District.

The universal school meals not only helped families, but also helped schools from depleting their meal budget.

“The result of the free reduced meals that the state provided during COVID, because they provided the funding for those it has left a healthy balance in many school districts accounts as it has in Sergeant Bluff,” said Janzen.

“In 2020 our ending lunch balance was about $41,000 in our lunch account. Right after we had completed or utilized this program, we were probably up closer to $200,000,” said Doug Glackin, the superintendent for Woodbury Central Community School District.

However, since the program ended earlier this year, schools are no longer being reimbursed by the federal government and now deal with rising food costs without any aid.

“We had probably about a 13% increase in the cost of food from 2020 up to the end of 2022. Over a two-year period we probably saw the 13% increase was probably about $26,000,” said Doug Glackin, the superintendent for Woodbury Central Community School District.

Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s superintendent says that despite rising food costs the district has not raised lunch prices for students.

“It’s certainly with costs increasing it’s very possible that there might be increase in meal fees, but like I said we haven’t taken a look at that yet,” said Janzen.

Siouxland families that need help paying for their child’s school meals can still apply for the Free And Reduced Meal Program. Click here to apply.