SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The US Department of Agriculture’s free meal program is ending for this upcoming school year.

As students return for school later this month, school officials said they’re working to keep free and reduced meals available.

Nine schools in the Sioux City Community School District (SCCSD) have qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision program (CEP), which allows the district to serve breakfast and lunch to students for free.

Rich Luze is the Food Services director for the school district. He said this school year could be a challenging transition for families.

“It’s going to be a change for everybody because the meals have been universal free for two years, so getting people back in the habit or back in the mindset that they need to set aside some money that they didn’t necessarily have to in the past couple years,” said Luze.

The Sioux City Public Schools Foundation is a non-profit organization that identifies areas of need in the school district. They have a program that relies on donations to pay off unpaid school lunch balances. Director of development, Karen Harrison, said the high price of food is challenging for school budgets.

“Our schools can’t do it,” said Harrison. “Our tax dollars just do not simply cover the need, and if we have hungry kids, then they’re not learning. So, we need to level the playing field if you will  and we need to make sure those stomachs are full so kids can learn.”

Harrison estimated 900 children in the school district are homeless and she said donations from Siouxlanders help make a difference.

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