SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As students in Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools get ready to return to the classroom next week, district officials are urging qualified families to apply for free or reduced lunch as soon as possible.

For the past two school years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided schools with waivers to give free meals to all students. That grant, however, expired at the end of June.

Students who qualified for free or reduced lunch during the 2020-2021 school year will continue to until Sept. 15, according to district officials. Families have until then to re-apply for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

District officials say breakfast will continue to be free for all students. This year, lunch will cost $3.00 for students and $0.40 for those who qualify for a reduced price.

The district is also introducing utensil centers in all cafeterias to provide students with forks, knives and spoons free of charge — regardless if they buy lunch or bring their own.

“We’re going from meals at no cost now so we really don’t want to engage in charging for anything that’s attached to the student,” said Onetha Bonaparte, senior director of school nutrition. “I, as school nutrition director, just want to do what’s in the best interest of the child and make sure they have fun, come through the cafeteria, eat, whatever they need they can get it here.”

Applications for free or reduced lunch opened at the start of July. For more information on SCCPSS’ school nutrition program parents are urged to call Maria Fields, School Nutrition Records Management Specialist at 912-395-1066.