(WTNH) – Free breakfast and lunch are ending in many school districts across Connecticut. The federal program is set to expire at the end of the month.

Cheshire is one of those districts impacted and the superintendent says he’s disappointed.

Parents told News 8 that their kids have received and enjoyed the free meals during the school year, and over the course of the pandemic. With inflation the way it is and grocery prices sky-high, they say it’s not the right time to make families pay.

“We use it every day. I usually don’t pack lunch anymore. He thinks the food is better than my food,” said Enid Serrano.

Enid Serrano lives in Cheshire and her son, Joaquin, is heading to the first grade next year. The free school lunch has become part of their routine. They’re said to see it come to an end.

“I’m kind of bummed because it’s something it’s easier to do in the morning, I don’t have to pack the lunches and the snacks, and I’m a little sad about it,” Serrano said.

The meals were part of nutrition waivers by the USDA, providing all children free breakfast and lunch during the pandemic over the last two years.

“All students had the free meals available to them throughout the year. There was no need to sign up, but we saw a significant increase in participation,” said Dr. Jeff Solan, Cheshire Superintendent of Schools.

This initiative is coming to an end on June 30, where only schools that meet the Community Eligibility Program requirement, also known as CEP, can continue getting free meals. Cheshire and many other towns will soon be off the list, which has parents like Gary Sasson concerned.

“I feel like there’s a lot of hidden poverty in suburban areas. There are some people that live with parents and not everyone is extremely wealthy. We certainly have that in this town,” Sasson said.

Dr, Solan says this program needs to stay.

“The one thing that I don’t want to compromise is that kids get access to meals every day, and if there’s anything we can do to ensure that that happens, certainly through the pandemic and this global crisis, I think it’s something that we need to look at,” Dr. Solan said.

With inflation on the rise and the cost of everything going up, parents are feeling the pinch.

Families now have to apply to see if they qualify for free meals at school in the fall. End Hunger CT is urging families to apply as soon as they can. They are offering free meals to all kids this summer at designated sites across the state, which can be found here.

Below is a list of schools and districts available to participate in the program in the 2022-23 school year:

  • Ansonia
  • Bloomfield
  • Bridgeport
  • Bristol
  • Danbury
  • Derby
  • East Hartford
  • East Haven
  • East Windsor
  • St. Martin de Porres Academy
  • Hartford
  • Manchester
  • Meriden
  • Middletown
  • Naugatuck
  • New Britain
  • New Haven
  • Yeshiva Gedolah Rabbinical Institute of New England
  • New London
  • Norwalk
  • Norwich
  • Plainfield
  • Putnam
  • Sharon
  • Sprague
  • Torrington
  • Vernon
  • Waterbury
  • Children’s Community School
  • West Haven
  • Winchester
  • Windham
  • CREC
  • ACES
  • Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication
  • Common Ground High School
  • The Bridge Academy
  • Amistad Academy
  • New Beginnings Family Academy, Inc.
  • Park City Prep Charter School, Inc.
  • Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, Inc.
  • Highville Charter School, Inc.
  • Elm City College Preparatory School
  • Brass City Charter School
  • Great Oaks Charter School
  • Capital Prepatory Harbor School, Inc.
  • Connecticut Technical Education & Career System
  • Klingberg Family Center