VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, UNITED STATES
Story by Kristine Sturkie
Beginning in the fall, for the 2022-23 Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school year, breakfasts and lunches administered by the Student Meal Program outside of the continental United States (OCONUS), will incorporate an associated fee unless authorized as free or reduced. Since March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waived the cost of student meals, however this policy waiver will expire on June 30, and as a result meals will no longer be free of charge starting this upcoming school year.
The cost of student meals at the onset of the 2022-23 DoDEA OCONUS school year will be based on meal category and grade school level. Where available, breakfast for all grades, elementary and secondary will cost $2. The lunch price at elementary schools will be $3.50 and at secondary schools the lunch price will be $3.75. Additionally, consistent with federal guidelines, those families who qualify for the Free and Reduced Meal Program will pay $0.30 for breakfast and $0.40 for lunch.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and remote education, for the past two school years the USDA provided students with meals free of charge among participating schools, to include DoDEA. Within those particular OCONUS DoDEA schools, the management of student meals falls under the purview of the Student Meal Program. Depending on the OCONUS location, the program is administered by one of the three U.S. military resale organizations— the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) or Marine Corps Exchange (MCX).
The Student Meal Program is a designated U.S. military entity that utilizes resources and creates menus in accordance with the nutrition standards and guidelines set forth by the USDA. On a daily basis, the meals offered under the program consist of whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk. As a government-run facilitator, the Student Meal Program does not run off a profit, rather it provides meals strictly at cost, on a break-even basis.
To apply for free or reduced-priced student meals, applications can be submitted beginning on July 1, 2022. Applications must be resubmitted each year for free and reduced-price meal eligibility and can be turned in anytime during the year. All families are encouraged to apply no matter their economic situation.