SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – One big impact of the lack of pandemic funding could be felt in lunchrooms across the country and right here in Utah.

That funding included waivers for school meal programs.  

Losing those waivers has local school districts concerned.

The federal government has until Friday to decide if they want to keep the pandemic waivers for school meals.

As of now, it’s not included in the 1.5 trillion dollar spending bill.

Salt Lake City School District and Granite Schools both said there’s going to be severe consequences if this doesn’t get extended.

The spending package approved by the House of Representatives Wednesday is missing a key component according to the School Nutrition Association; one that some Utah school districts said is going to leave them scrambling.

“It’ll be devastating,” said Salt Lake City School District’s child nutrition director Kelly Orton.

School districts like the Salt Lake City School district are going to face severe consequences if the federal government takes away the pandemic waivers for school lunch programs.

“We won’t have the funds to support the increase of cost in fuel and labor and everything that’s going up around us,” said Orton.

The waivers allowed schools to offer free meals to all students and expand meal services in communities.

Orton said without an extension schools will scale back summer meal programs and face major issues.

“As a result school districts across the nation including Salt Lake School District are going to have look for our own taxpayers, our own funding through the school districts, and take that funding away from textbooks and schools,” said Orton.

Ben Horsley at Granite Schools said there could be issues as well.

“Yes and no,” said Horsley. “It’s going to impact our families and again those families who are eligible will still be able to receive free or reduced lunch prices all they have to do is complete the application.

The federal program didn’t require an application and as it stands it expires June 30th.

Orton said he and school leaders around the state are calling on community members for help.

Salt Lake Schools’ child nutrition staff is 30% understaffed.

“We really need the labor,” said Orton. “We need people helping to just serve lunch. We don’t have enough people serving lunch. We are shutting down our serving lines because we don’t have enough people. So if we had people in the community help us serve lunch this would be a tremendous help for us.”

Orton said he and his colleagues want Congress to extend the program at least one more year so they can put a plan in place.

As of now if the program expires, Orton said school lunch prices could be $5 per meal, and funds for teachers, textbooks, and technology will have to be cut. 

On the local level, there is still are free and reduced lunches offered, however, the districts said those meals will cost them, the district itself, more, and they will have to figure out how to pay for those because gas is more expensive, food is more expensive and there is a shortage of workers.

If you are interested in working in the cafeterias in Salt Lake City Schools click here.

For Granite Schools click here.