CONWAY S.C. (WBTW) — The federal free school meal waiver program expired Thursday, ending a program put in place in 2020 to provide a cost-free meal to all students.

Now, Horry County Schools students will not automatically get free lunch this upcoming school year.

Parents will need to fill out an application for the upcoming year to ensure their students can get free and reduced meals if their income qualifies.

Kim Johnson, the director of nutrition services for the district, said that more students participated in the meal program in the last two years.

Johnson said before the pandemic, the district was serving roughly 30,000 meals a day. That number increased close to 40,000.

“We saw a bigger increase in the areas of our district which are typically in the higher pay status,” Johnson said. “We saw a greater participation with those students, and it was really awesome for them to be able to see what we do provide as lunch to our students throughout the year.”

The waivers expiring do not impact the summer meal program.

President Joe Biden has signed the Keep Kids Fed Act, extending important funding and flexibility for communities to provide children with healthy meals.

Horry County Schools will be reimbursed an additional 40 cents more for each lunch plate served, and an additional 15 cents more for each breakfast meal.

“We’re thankful that this was included in the act, to allow us to be able to meet the expenses of the increasing cost to run our program,” Johnson said.

The act also gives Horry County Schools more flexibility with its summer meal program.

“We started our program having students come into the cafeteria to eat their summer meals, however, this does give us the flexibility to allow parents to pick up meals for students,” Johnson said.

Applications for free and reduced lunches open July 1. Applications are viewable here. Look for the free and reduced meal application header on the left side of the page.