PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Lunch programs will be slightly different this school year across Virginia. Many families will pay for school lunches for the first time since the pandemic.

Food insecurity is a major issue for some families across the Commonwealth. Many kids don’t know when they will eat again once they leave class.

Organizations like No Kid Hungry Virginia step up to ensure empty bells are filled everyday. “It’s a difficult time for families,” said Sarah Steely with No Kid Hungry Virginia. “We know that for too many Virginians, folks are making the choice between buying food or a utility bill, or buying food and buying medicine. They are a fender bender or broken arm away from being in a tough situation.” 

Virginia’s budget provided $8.2 million over the next two years to make lunches free for eligible families. Around 64,000 students will benefit from the program. From food backpack programs, which sends food home with students over the weekend, to third meals offered after school, No Kid Hungry Virginia finds unique ways to help districts keep kids fed. 

“We are seeing those long lines grow at food banks grow again,” said Steely. “Hunger can feel isolating. It can feel lonely.”

Not every district and school is the same. Be sure to check with your child’s school to see if your family still qualifies for the free and reduced lunch program; some may require an application.