ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- Students across the Tri-cities are back to school and back to paying for lunches.

School systems now require parents to fill out applications to qualify for free and reduced school lunches. This is after the federal waiver allowing all students to eat for free at school since March 2020 is no longer in effect.

“Parents are struggling with the fact that they now have to re-apply like they did prior to covid for free and reduced consideration. My word is to really encourage parents even if they don’t think they’re going to qualify to go ahead and fill out the application,” said Hawkins Co. School Superintendent Matt Hixson.

“We can weigh that, we can value that… we can get them a determination but at no stretch of the imagination… no stretch in time are we ever going to refuse students the ability to eat. They will always be fed in Hawkins Co. Schools but if I could give them any encouragement at all- if I could really emphasize with parents the need to get an application turned in- the sooner the better so we can start processing those.”

Hixson expects about 60% of the students across Hawkins Co. to qualify. He says Central Office is fielding calls about it each day.

“We’re able to determine not only those that would eat for free but those that can see a reduction in their lunch bills. So, we’re going to have everybody from full pay- those that don’t qualify for any assistance to those that are somewhere in between a full pay and a fully free lunch and those reductions are beneficial as well. My encouragement is even if they don’t feel like they would qualify– go ahead and apply and see what happens.”

You can apply on the Hawkins Co. Schools website. Applications are evaluated as they come in.