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School lunches in Hall County still free for 2021-22 thanks to federal program
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Lyman Hall Elementary teacher Angela Wiesner eats lunch with students outdoors Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

Both Gainesville and Hall County schools will offer free meals to all students until at least June 2022. 

Even students who bring their own lunch can participate in Lunch Box Buddy and pick up three food items at no cost, which must include 1/2 cup of fruits or vegetables. 

The program is an extension of U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers first issued in spring 2020 as schools closed as the coronavirus pandemic hit. USDA announced the most recent extension in April. The waivers allow schools to serve free meals without needing to verify student eligibility for federal programs. 

Gainesville City Schools has offered something similar for the past 10 years based on the high poverty rate in the school system.

The poverty rate for Gainesville City Schools is 70%, according to spokeswoman Joy Griffin. 

The poverty rate for Hall schools is 55.93%, according to Director of Communications Stan Lewis, based on the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

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