After a two-year hiatus, charges for student meals are back at Department of Defense Education Activity schools outside the continental U.S.

Beginning in the fall, students will once again be charged for their breakfasts and lunches, unless they qualify for free meals. As inflation has hit food prices everywhere else, the costs of breakfasts and lunches will increase by 25 cents each over what they were in the fall of 2019, before the pandemic struck.

For the previous two school years, since March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture waived the cost of student meals because of the pandemic and remote education, but that waiver expires on June 30. The USDA provided those meals free among participating schools, to include DoDEA schools. DoDEA schools provided the free meals at grab-and-go locations.

Here are the lunch prices starting in the fall, for overseas DoDEA students in the 2022-2023 school year:

*Elementary school students (kindergarten through 5th grade): $3.50, up from $3.25 in 2019.

*Secondary students (6th grade through 12th grade): $3.75, up from $3.50 in 2019.

*Families who qualify for reduced-cost meals will still pay 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.

*Breakfast prices (at participating locations) for all grades are $2, up from $1.75 in 2019.

The Department of Defense Student Meal Program is administered by the military exchange organizations. Depending on the location of the overseas school, the meal program is run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the Navy Exchange Service Command or Marine Corps Exchange.

The Student Meal Program doesn’t make a profit. It provides meals strictly at cost, on a break-even basis, according to exchange officials. DoDEA and the USDA reimburse the military exchanges for direct costs of the student meals that are in excess of the price paid by the students.

The meal program uses resources and creates menus that meet the nutrition standards and guidelines established by the USDA. The meals are required to consist of whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk.

Families can apply for the free or reduced-priced meal programs starting July 1 at locations where programs are operated by the Navy Exchange, and July 15 at locations operated by AAFES. Applications must be resubmitted each year for eligibility, and can be turned in any time during the year.

Exchange officials encourage all families to apply, regardless of their economic situation.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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