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Meal debt is soaring in Midwest schools after free lunch programs stop

After the end of pandemic-era free school meals, kids in Midwest states are eating fewer lunches and meal debt is rising. Plus: After decades of inaction from Kansas leaders over the Ogallala Aquifer drying up, the state's approach to water conservation might finally be shifting.

School lunch was free for all public school students during the pandemic but, last fall, students had to begin paying again, and families that qualified had to sign up for free or reduced cafeteria meals. Since then, school districts in the Midwest say fewer kids are eating lunch and meal debt is soaring. Kate Grumke reports for Harvest Public Media on how state and federal officials are responding.

Water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer continue to plummet — farming irrigation swallows more than 2 billion gallons of groundwater a day. David Condos of the Kansas News Service reports that, after decades of little action on the issue, Kansas might be shifting toward a more committed, and perhaps even mandatory, approach to saving the Ogallala.

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Kansas City Today is hosted by Luke X. Martin. It is produced by Paris Norvell, Byron Love, and KCUR Studios, and edited by Gabe Rosenberg and Lisa Rodriguez.

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As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
Paris Norvell is a freelance podcast producer for KCUR Studios,
As an on-demand producer, I am focused on using my skills and experiences across multiple digital applications, platforms and media fields to create community focused audio, video and on-demand products for KCUR Studios. The media that I produce aims to inform, entertain and connect with the Kansas City metro area as we continue to learn from each other. Email me at byronlove@kcur.org.
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