Parents go into debt to pay for kids’ breakfasts, lunches

Switching from in-person to online schooling has been hard on many families – and on their budgets.

About one-quarter of parents say they’ve gone into debt to pay for their kids’ at-home school expenses, and many blame the cost of their kids’ breakfasts and lunches when they switched to learning remotely from home.

A survey from Credit Karma  examines how this school year could affect household finances. More than half of parents say they expect to spend slightly to significantly more on school supplies, the survey of more than 1,000 parents found.

The reasons for the debt are higher grocery prices and the sudden switch to at-home schooling in March.

Before the pandemic, about 30 million children were fed daily by their schools’ breakfast and lunch programs, according to the School Nutrition Association.

Those meals are a good deal for parents: The majority of children receive free or reduced-cost lunches, and the regular price is about $2.50 a meal for elementary-age kids. When the pandemic shut down in-person schooling in March, millions of parents found themselves on the hook for providing those meals at home. About one in four parents who have taken on debt from at-home education costs blame the expense of breakfast and lunch for their kids, Credit Karma found.

“School lunch was a lot cheaper to pay for every day versus making lunch at home,” says Colleen McCreary, chief people officer at Credit Karma, whose son started his 2020-21 school year in online classes. “It’s all-day grazing, depending on the age of a child.”

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