Letters to the Editor: Aug. 13, 2022

Federal school meal programs have played a central role in reducing hardship during the pandemic. Since March 2020, USDA has provided waivers to schools, allowing them to serve meals at no cost to all students. These meals have been a lifeline for struggling families, but the waivers are set to expire at the end of this school year, leaving schools and students in Ohio without access to free school meals. Despite an improving pandemic situation, record setting inflation puts a great deal of financial stress on our Dayton families. We are looking to the legislature and Governor DeWine to help ensure that every K-12 student in Ohio has equal access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch at school to support their health and academic success. Providing healthy school meals at no cost for every student in Ohio – regardless of income – is a critical investment in improving the health and well-being of our Dayton students, ending child hunger in inner city schools, and strengthening our education and health system.

We are calling on the DeWine Administration and the Ohio Legislature to support the following actions to make sure our children avoid hunger. #1 Please use funding, either through ARPA or other funding sources, to supplement the cost of providing school meals that are not covered by the federal government, so schools are fully reimbursed at the “free rate” for all meals they serve. #2 Maximize federal funds for school meals by requiring school districts eligible for the CEP to pursue this option to more effectively leverage federal funding and implement best practices to maximize federal reimbursements and relieving local fiscal pressures impacting the program.

As a physician at an underserved community hospital, I see firsthand the impact of poverty and food insecurity in the city of Dayton, and I see how life-changing a free school meal can be for our children and their families.

- Vijai Tivakaran, DO, FACC, Cardiologist and past president of American Heart Association Board of Directors, Dayton Chapter