FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — Federal lunch waivers expired in September, causing parents to scramble to figure out how to afford their kid’s school lunches.

Frederick County students are accumulating lunch debt, but not as much as before the pandemic.

“Our debt value at that time was about $9,500 and as of today, we’re at $6,500, director of food and nutrition services, Robert Kelly said. ” So, it’s a little bit less, but it’s not higher and that’s good.”

According to Frederick County Public Schools, the drop in debt is due to families applying for their meal benefit program. The program allows families who qualify to receive assistance in paying for their child’s lunches.

“I think this has made a difference in the amount of charges that are actually occurring today,” Kelly said.

Some FCPS parents said they shouldn’t have to worry about paying for school lunches in the first place.

“We’re trying to make sure that we cover all of our student debt for our school,” FCPS parent Elizabeth Irvine said. “I don’t really think it should be a thing I think kids should be able to eat, we pay enough in taxes, and we do all of those things that there’s no reason that more thought can’t go into having access to food.”

FCPS said it does have certain protocols in place so that no child goes hungry.

“A child has never had a meal taken away,” Kelly stated. ” In elementary and middle schools, a child can charge up to four meals total and at the high school level, we don’t allow charges. What we do is offer an alternate meal.”

“You can’t do anything when you’re hungry,” Irvine said. ” So, I think it’s really important that they’re able to still eat no matter what.”

The Frederick County school district says it approved roughly 4,000 more applications for free or reduced this school year, compared to the 2019 school year.