SARTELL -- As school districts across the state continue to deal with budget deficits brought on by COVID-19, another financial worry is quickly approaching.

Applications for Meal Benefits have decreased this year, which could result in schools missing out on federal funding for various programs.

Shelby Tanner is the Director of Food Services in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District. She says because the United States Department of Agriculture is offering free breakfast and lunch for K-12th grade students, many families don't think they need to apply.

The income thresholds for meal benefits may be higher that other programs, so many families are surprised to find that they qualify. The state provides income guidelines for families to reference to see if they qualify.

Tanner says the funding from this program helps with things like technology, bilingual programs and additional teachers and teacher aides.

She says they are down about 85 applications from last year, which can make a huge difference in funding.

It's important we get the message out there that these meal benefit applications don't just insure they get free meals, it's for additional resources for our district.

She says all applications are anonymous and takes a few minutes to fill out.

Sartell-St. Stephen families can find the application in Skyward or on the Districts Food Service webpage.

Applications must be completed and returned by the end of the school day on Tuesday.

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