The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 20 that schools will be able to serve nutritious meals to all students free of charge regardless of eligibility through June 30, 2022, according to a press release.

As part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reopen schools safely nationwide, the department’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option is being expanded beyond the summertime and through the 2021-22 school year. Officials said schools that take advantage of this program will receive higher reimbursements than they normally would, allowing them to serve healthy options while managing pandemic-related cost increases.

“Students’ success in the classroom goes hand in hand with their ability to access basic needs like healthy and nutritious meals,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “It’s critical that our efforts to reopen schools quickly and safely include programs that provide access to free, healthy meals for our most vulnerable students, particularly those whose communities have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

According to the USDA, as many as 12 million children are living in food-insecure households during the pandemic. Through this program, all children can access fruits, vegetables, milk and whole grains at no cost. The provision also includes meal pickup options in regions where programs are not operating in person.

Learn more about how the USDA is meeting needs during the COVID-19 pandemic at