PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — As kids return to the classroom this fall, they will also return to the cafeteria.

No Kid Hungry Virginia projects that 64,000 more students will be eligible for free meals thanks to the Virginia General Assembly’s new budget. The group says historically about 600,000 students across the Commonwealth have relied on free or reduced-price meals.

According to No Kid Hungry, there are nearly 12 million kids that live with hunger in the U.S.

“You can’t be hungry to learn if you’re just plain hungry right,” said Sarah Steely with No Kid Hungry Virginia. “School meals, that breakfast in the morning, lunch, and in some cases after school meals, those are a lifeline for families who might need to be making a really agonizing choice between putting food on the table or paying an electric bill.”

At Pulaski County Middle School, volunteers have been working hard to serve up food for the district’s summer meal distribution program.

“You’ve seen the prices of food and it’s greatly increased, so this is a way we can help families with their budgets,” said Ethelene Sadler, Director of School Nutrition for Pulaski County Public Schools. “Hopefully the money they would have to spend on food they can use that for other things.”

All Pulaski County Public Schools fall within a Community Eligibility Provision, which means all meals in the district are free to students.

“I’m a single mother so it’s always helped out to save some snack money, especially in the summer,” said a Pulaski County Public Schools mother.

Not every school in Virginia qualifies for the program and following the expiration of federal pandemic era relief programs, many students will have to return to paying for school meals.

“For some of your surrounding counties — Botetourt, Montgomery — I think it’s really important for parents to know they will have to return to filling out the eligibility form,” said Steely.

You can apply for free lunch on a rolling basis by sending in the free and reduced income eligibility form, which is available on your school district’s website.