Bolton promoter is making live music accessible during the cost-of-living crisis

A music promotor is putting on events with the aim of making live music accessible to people during the cost-of-living crisis.

Doc Metalus, a 43-year-old recent graduate of criminal psychology at the University of Bolton, is in the process of promoting a series of gigs at The Alma Inn.

The Alma has a few promoters putting up acts from a variety of genres. Doc’s nights, which he puts on via his promotional guise ‘Eat the Rude Promotions’, to appeal to those with a taste for grime core and death metal.

The first gig is today (Saturday, October 1), and it starts at 1pm. It’s named Grind After Death Fest.

“I’ve had to do it because we know that everyone is struggling at the minute,” Doc said. “So, it’s £5 for 11 bands and the Alma does pints from £2.70.

“We want to make it accessible.”

This Saturday’s gig poster

Some of Doc’s events will be free, as he says that he is not in this to make money.

He said: “That’s my whole ethos. It’s to give people an alternative. Metal for the people.

“We want the people of Bolton to know that the Alma are putting on accessible events.

“Music is entertainment for the people. It’s an escape. I could put this gig on in Manchester for £20 or £30 but that’s not what I’m about.”

The pandemic hit the live music industry harder than most, but Doc says that now we are out the other side, there is a noticeable appetite live music once again.

“I’ve noticed a lot of bands bouncing back after Covid, across all musical genres and audiences. People are bang up for it. We were locked up for two years.

THE ALMA INN, BOLTON: Fascinating history of pub from a missing canary to hosting top bands

“There’s an audience for it so we’re just trying to provide for people who want to go to gigs.”

The appetite is there, but there is still an anxiety around paying for live music events brought on by the pandemic forcing events to shut down, Doc reckons.

He said: “A lot of people are being put off gigs because of things like festivals cancelling after they’ve paid £200 for a ticket in advance then they’re not getting their money back.

“This one on Saturday is £5 on the door so you don’t have to fork out in advance.”

Doc has taken to some interesting marketing technique to promote his gigs, creating fun content using famous movie villains to display his gig posters.

He says that stopping short of becoming a viral sensation on TikTok, it’s important to use the power of the internet and trends to draw people in.

Keep up with all of Doc’s events via his social media: 


If you have a story or something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at lewis.finney@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on Twitter @lewisfinney18

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Beautiful brindle dog available for adoption in New Jersey: ‘Old school’ charmer

A gorgeous brindle mix pup in New Jersey is looking for a forever home.

Carmine, who’s estimated to be about two years old, is currently up for adoption at Sammy’s Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center located in Sayreville, N.J., in Middlesex County. 

While Carmine’s origins are unknown, it’s clear he lived in a home previously, as he appears to be house-trained and walks “nicely” on a leash, according to the shelter.


Staff at Sammy’s Hope told Fox News Digital they’re just happy he found his way into the safety of their shelter.

At two years old, Carmine has an “old-school” charm, the staff reported, and he prefers to take a little time to warm up to new people.

Carmine enjoys hanging out with his friends, cuddling on laps, eating well and going for long walks on the beach, the staff also said. 


“He’s up to trying just about anything as long as he is doing it with friends,” the staff at Sammy’s Hope reported.

Brindle mix Carmine is up for adoption at Sammy's Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center in Sayreville, N.J.

Brindle mix Carmine is up for adoption at Sammy’s Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center in Sayreville, N.J.
(Sammy’s Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center)

The staff also said that Carmine “takes treats gently.”

The young pup is eager to find a home to call his own as well as owners who are caring, patient and loving, the shelter noted.


Sammy’s Hope added that Carmine just “knows the right family is out there” for him.

Carmine, a brindle mix, lounges on a cot as he awaits his forever home.

Carmine, a brindle mix, lounges on a cot as he awaits his forever home.
(Sammy’s Hope Animal Welfare and Adoption Center)

“If you are looking for a lifelong friend, someone that will always forgive, someone with a constant smile on his face, and someone to show you unconditional love — look no further,” the shelter said.

“Once Carmine has your heart, there’s no turning back.”


Interested in adopting Carmine? 

Visit sammyshope.org to complete the “adoption interest form,” or follow Sammy’s Hope on Facebook for updates.

Want to read about other pets up for adoption? Check out this article from Fox News Digital: Adorable buff tabby in need of adoption in Utah: ‘Such a sweet girl’

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British Prime Minister Liz Truss admits mistakes over mini-budget – but stands by tax-cutting package

British Prime Minister Liz Truss has acknowledged mistakes over the recent mini-budget but said she is standing by her tax-cutting plan as she refused to rule out public spending cuts.

he admitted she could have done more to prepare the ground for Kwasi Kwarteng’s financial statement, which spooked the markets, sent the pound plummeting, and forced a £65 billion intervention by the Bank of England to restore order.

Ms Truss said the mini-budget’s most controversial measure – the abolition of the 45pc tax rate on earnings over £150,000 – was not discussed with the Cabinet but was a decision made by the chancellor.

As the Conservative Party conference gets under way in Birmingham, Ms Truss faces a difficult task in reassuring the markets and Tory members unnerved by the market turbulence and opinion poll crash suffered since she took office.

“I do want to say to people I understand their worries about what has happened this week,” she told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

“I do stand by the package we announced and I stand by the fact we announced it quickly, because we had to act.

“But I do accept we should have laid the ground better… I have learnt from that and I will make sure that in future we do a better job of laying the ground.”

The move to axe the top rate of income tax for the nation’s highest earners during a cost-of-living crisis and to pay for it through borrowing has been widely criticised, including by some Tory MPs.

During the interview, Ms Truss made Mr Kwarteng own the controversial decision, saying it was not discussed with the wider Cabinet.

“No, no, we didn’t. It was a decision the chancellor made,” she said.

She was clear that pensions will rise in line with inflation, saying she has “committed to the triple lock” protecting them against price increases.

But she refused to give the same guarantee for benefits and government departmental budgets.

Not ruling out rowing back on Boris Johnson’s promise to raise benefit payments in line with inflation, she said: “This is something the Department of Work and Pensions Secretary (Chloe Smith) is looking at at the moment.

“She will make a determination on that and we will announce that this autumn.”

Ms Truss defended the dramatic break with past Conservative policy on stewardship of the public finances despite not having her own mandate at a general election.

She said people had voted for a “different future” in 2019, with hopes for investment in towns and cities, higher wages and economic growth.

“That is what our plan will deliver. I’m confident it will deliver. I’m absolutely confident that what we are doing on speeding up road projects, unleashing investment from the City, reducing taxes will deliver that,” she said.

“I’m not saying it’s not going to be difficult – we do face a very turbulent and stormy time – but it will deliver, it will deliver on the promises we made.”

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Bigg Boss 16: Miss India runner up Manya Singh says, ‘couldn’t get work for two years after due to…’ | Television News

New Delhi: Femina Miss India 2020 runner-up Manya Singh will now be seen on the reality show `Bigg Boss 16`, hosted by superstar Salman Khan. She talked in detail about her struggles in life and not getting any work in the industry because of her skin tone.

Being a daughter of an auto rickshaw driver, life has never been easy for her and she told the host that her father still drives an auto rickshaw and her mother travels on a local train because they don`t want her to be overburdened.

Manya had to struggle for six years before becoming Miss India 2020 runner-up. She asserted that often people think that life is easy after winning these pageants but the reality is different and she was without work for two years.

She said: “People think after becoming Miss India life changes altogether, but the reality is not this. I had no work for two years. Either because of skin tone or any other reason, I was told that `you can`t get the work`.”

Replying to her, Salman assured her that post her stint in this show she will definitely get good work and life will be much easier for her. Manya also shared that she requested her father to take her wherever she had to go. And she also taught Salman walk the ramp.

Apart from her, other contestants on the show are Nimrit Kaur Ahluwalia, Abdu Rozik, Shalin Bhanot, Ankit Gupta, Priyanka Chahar Choudhary, Sumbul Touqeer, and many more.

`Bigg Boss 16` airs on Colors.

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GOP cuts into Democrats’ lead among Latino voters, new poll shows

Less than six weeks before November’s midterm elections, Democrats lead Republicans by more than 20 points among Latino voters, but that Democratic advantage has declined from previous election cycles, according to a new national NBC News/Telemundo poll of the Latino electorate.  

The poll also finds Latino voters are essentially divided on President Joe Biden, with 51% approving of his job and 45% disapproving.  

And it shows these voters largely siding with Democrats on issues like abortion, health care and addressing concerns of the Hispanic community. But it also has them backing Republicans on crime and the economy.  

These are the main results of a survey — conducted nationwide of 1,000 Latino registered voters in both English and Spanish — to better understand this key electorate, especially after Republican gains with them in the last presidential election. 

“While Latinos continue to lean towards the Democratic Party and prefer Democratic control of Congress, Republicans have a higher share of the vote than we’ve measured previously,” said Democratic pollster Aileen Cardona-Arroyo of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his team at Public Opinion Strategies. 

McInturff added, “Being down by 20 points is a lot better [for Republicans] than being down by 40 points,” referring to past NBC/Telemundo studies of Latino voters. 

What also stands out from this new poll are the differences between Latino men and Latina women, between Latino Democrats and Latino Republicans, between Catholic and non-Catholic Latinos, and between Latinos from California and those from Florida and Texas. 

“Latinos are an incredibly diverse community, and there are many segments of Latino voters — not just one Latino voter,” said Cardona-Arroyo, the Democratic pollster. 

In the NBC News/Telemundo poll, 54% of Latino voters say they prefer Democrats to control Congress as a result of the upcoming midterm elections, versus 33% who want Republicans in charge. 

That 21-point Democratic lead in congressional preference is down from past NBC/Telemundo over-samples of Latino voters in Oct. 2020 (when it was 26 points), Nov. 2018 (34 points), Oct. 2016 (38 points) and Oct. 2012 (42 points). 

There are also clear differences among Latinos: California Latinos (D+30), Latina women (D+29) and Catholic Latinos (D+27) are more likely to prefer Democratic control of Congress than Florida Latinos (D+7), Latino men (D+9) and non-Catholic Latinos (D+15). 

“Margins matter,” said Cardona-Arroyo, the Democratic pollster.

Mixed views on Biden

Regarding President Biden, 51% of Latino voters in the poll say they approve of the president’s job, compared with 45% who disapprove. 

Once again, there are key divides here: Latino Catholics, Latina women and older Latinos are more supportive of Biden than are non-Catholic Latinos, Latino men and younger Latinos. 

While a majority of all Latinos approve of Biden’s overall job as president, he gets lower ratings on the issues — 49% approve of his handling of foreign policy, 42% approve of him on border security and immigration, and 41% approve of his job on the economy. 

Asked whether Biden’s economic policies have helped or hurt economic conditions, 33% answer that they’ve helped, 39% say they’ve hurt, and another 26% say they haven’t made much of a difference.

Democrats vs. Republicans on the issues

On the issues, Latino voters believe Democrats do a better job handling abortion (by a 50%-to-23% margin), addressing concerns of the Hispanic community (49%-23%), protecting democracy (48%-28%) and on health care (46%-21%). 

Yet they prefer Republicans over Democrats on the economy (38% say the GOP better handles the issue, versus 34% who say Democrats do), on border security (36%-33%) and on crime (36%-28%).

Asked what they consider to be the most important issue facing the country, 23% said the cost of living, 20% said “threats to democracy,” 17% said jobs and the economy and 11% said immigration and the situation at the border. 

In NBC News’ national poll of all voters last month, the top responses — in order — were “threats to democracy” (20%), the cost of living (18%), jobs and the economy (16%) and immigration/border (12%).

On abortion and immigration

Finally, the NBC News/Telemundo poll shows that a majority of Latino voters — 54% — say they disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade, while 37% approve. 

That’s not far removed from what last month’s national NBC News poll found among all registered voters, with 61% disapproving and 37% disapproving. 

Yet for Latinos on this question, there are significant divides by party and religion.

Seventy-five percent of Democratic Latinos disapprove of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, versus 42% of independents and just 22% of Latino Republicans. 

By religion, 53% of Latino Catholics disapprove of the decision, versus 59% of Latino evangelical Christians who approve of it. 

And on immigration, two-thirds of Latino voters — 65% — believe that the migrants and refugees who arrive at the southern border should be allowed to request asylum and stay in the United States until their asylum cases are heard.

That’s compared with 31% of Latinos who say these migrants and refugees should be immediately detained and sent back to their countries of origin. 

By party, 83% of Latino Democrats say these migrants and refugees should be allowed to stay, versus 64% of GOP Latinos who believe that they should be detained and sent back. 

The NBC News/Telemundo poll was conducted Sept. 17-26 of 1,000 Latino registered voters, 75% of whom took the survey in English and 25% who took it in Spanish. 

Respondents were contacted via landline, cell phone and text message. And the poll has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.  

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Gemma Collins selling off clothing line at markets after business axed

FORMER Towie star Gemma Collins, 41, is having her clothing line sold at markets as her firm is due to be dissolved.

A friend of the reality TV favourite is selling various clothing items from Gemma’s line, including hoodies, dresses and swimwear.

Gemma Collins' clothing line is being flogged at markets by her pal


Gemma Collins’ clothing line is being flogged at markets by her palCredit: instagram

It comes as Gemma gave dad Alan permission to dissolve her company and she’s also shut down the website.

Gemma previously said her shipping boss dad “controls all [her] money.”

The TV star – who used to run a boutique in Brentwood, Essex until it went bust in 2018 – took the “difficult” decision to shut it down just weeks ago.

Gemma Collins looks slimmer than ever as she poses with her dad
Gemma Collins shows off ROBOT she has to cut grass at Essex mansion

Earlier this year The Sun told how Gemma signed a £1m deal with high street fashion retailer New Look.

A fashion industry source told us: “It had been Gemma’s dream to have her own clothes range since she was a kid and it was popular with customers.

“But now she’s an ambassador for New Look it didn’t make sense for her to continue with her own range as she’ll be designing clothes with the firm’s creative team.

“New Look is one of the biggest in the business so she took the difficult decision to close down her own range.”

Gemma’s clothes are being sold at markets for discount prices, as the range has gone from around £30 for a jumper and £60 for a dress to items selling for roughly £5-15.

The items are being sold at Essex markets in Basildon, Epping, Sunbury-on-Thames, Pitsea and Rochford.

Gemma founded the firm in 2013. The GC at the time also set up Gemma Collins Ltd to handle her telly cash.

She has also been selling off stock like dresses, jumpsuits, pjs and swimwear via an Instagram page, after inking the mega-deal with New Look in April.

Insiders said the television star had been snapped up by the high street shop as their main celebrity ambassador in a “lengthy and lucrative” deal.

She is no stranger to big money brand deals and has signed huge contracts with companies including Wizz Air and Surf over the past couple of years.

A source said at the time: “Gemma is big business and when New Look approached her for a collaboration, they were willing to pay big money.

“The deal Gemma has signed makes her New Look’s main celebrity ambassador and will also see her launching her own collection with them.

“Gemma’s contract with New Look will go on for a long time, which is how she is easily going to make over £1million.

“She is a huge fan of the company and shops in New Look herself so she is the perfect person for them to partner with.

“Gemma is really proud of her connection to the brand and she can’t wait for her fans to see what they have been working on.”

Gemma has signed a huge deal with retailer New Look


Gemma has signed a huge deal with retailer New LookCredit: Instagram
Gemma gave dad Alan permission to dissolve her company and she’s also shut down the website


Gemma gave dad Alan permission to dissolve her company and she’s also shut down the websiteCredit: Instagram

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‘I am confident our plan will deliver’ says UK’s Truss following market crisis

British Prime Minister Liz Truss has said she should have done more to “lay the ground” better to try to minimise market reaction to her recent mini-budget, which saw the pound hit record lows and government borrowing costs soar.

On the first day of her governing Conservative Party’s annual conference, Ms Truss, in power for less than a month, adopted a softer tone by trying to reassure the public she would look after them during a difficult winter and beyond.

But she stood by her “growth plan” that investors and economists have criticised for setting out billions of pounds of additional spending while offering very few details on how it would be paid for in the short term.

“I understand their worries about what has happened this week,” she told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show.

“I do stand by the package we announced, and I stand by the fact that we announced it quickly because we had to act, but I do accept that we should have laid the ground better,” she said.

British PM Liz Truss delivers a statement about the Queen's death
Ms Truss is still less than one month in to her premiership.(News Video)

According to the Prime Minister, her cabinet of top ministers were not informed in advance that the government planned to abolish the top rate of tax, with the decision taken by finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng.

“No, we didn’t, this was a decision that the chancellor made,” Ms Truss told the BBC when asked whether all of her cabinet were told of the planned scrapping.

“When budgets are developed, they are developed in a very confidential way.” 

Opposition, public aghast at tax proposals

Markets tanked in response to the package, and the Bank of England staged an emergency intervention to bail out embattled pension funds, setting the stage for a difficult four-day gathering in Birmingham. 

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Fans Irked With Shehnaaz Gill For Supporting Sajid Khan’s Entry In Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss 16

Salman Khan‘s Bigg Boss is back with another interesting season. The 16th season of one of India’s most controversial TV reality shows started airing on Colors TV on October 1, 2022. 

Tina Dutta, Ankit Gupta, Manya Singh, Archana Gautam, Soundarya Sharma, Shaleen Bhanot, Sreejita De, and Gautam Vig, are the final contestants of Bigg Boss 16 among others. 

Fans Irked With Shehnaaz Gill For Supporting Sajid Khan
web screen grab

Me too accused Sajid Khan is also a contestant of Bigg Boss 16, who entered the house on Saturday at the premiere of the show. The filmmaker was accused of sexual harassment by several women during the #MeToo movement in India. 

Sajid, who was barred from directing films by the Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA), shared on the show how he has been out of work for the last four years amid allegations of sexual misconduct by many of his female colleagues. 

Sajid Khan

While speaking to Salman on the Bigg Boss stage, Sajid discussed how his credit on Housefull 4 was taken away from him, despite putting in hard work. He went on to say that while it is failure that destroys people, in his case it was “success” that destroyed him. 

The filmmaker also admitted to becoming “arrogant” after his films performed well at the box office, as reported by the Indian Express.

Sajid Khan

Later, Shehnaaz Gill, who became household fame after featuring in Bigg Boss 13 gave a shoutout to Sajid and supported him. 

In a video message played by Salman the actress can be heard saying, “Hi Sajid bhai, you are going inside the Bigg Boss house and I am very happy for you. The way you have always made the audience laugh on television and through your scripts, just go all out in the reality show also. Just spread smiles and please do not fight with anyone. Just entertain everyone and be real. My support is with you, rock it brother.” 

However, Shehnaaz’s message did not go down well with the audience.


Salman Khan And Shehnaaz Gill Share Adorable Bond; Nusrat Jahan Gets Trolled And More From Ent
Web Screen Grab

The actress, who enjoys a huge fan following on social media was slammed by some of her followers over supporting Sajid Khan. 

Taking to Twitter, a user wrote, “The lowest point of today’s premiere was Shehnaaz Gill coming out in full support of #SajidKhan. Extremely disappointing! 👎🏻” 

Another said, “I love #ShehnaazGiIl ❤ but I hate her for supporting me too culprit #SajidKhan .. People like Sajid should be behind bars. Here in Bollywood he is doing a show and next directing a movie.. Shame 😡” 

While a third commented, “9 women had accused #SajidKhan of Sexual abuse…And He Got Support 🌚
Ofcourse He will be the Next Baby Face of Channel & the winner by the support of Salman, Farah & Endemol Itlsef 🤞 #BiggBoss #BiggBoss16.” 

Here’s how others reacted: 

(For more news and updates from the world of celebrities from Bollywood and Hollywood, keep reading Indiatimes Entertainment, and let us know your thoughts on this story in the comments below.)

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School lunch is too costly for a growing number of families. Will a White House pledge help?

This story was produced by NBC News’ Elizabeth Chuck as part of the 2022 National Fellowship at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

The end of universal free school meals has left a growing number of families in a financial quandary: unable to keep up with school lunch payments, yet unable to qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

A flood of families have applied for a price break now that school meals cost money for the first time since the early days of the pandemic, and sky-high prices of other essentials constrict parents’ budgets. Many families are within $100 of the modest limit for qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, according to school nutrition directors.

“I’ve cried with a lot of families,” said Angie Richey, nutrition services supervisor of Roseville Area Schools in Minnesota. “I had to tell one family of six that they were $33 over.”

A dozen school nutrition directors — from districts large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and low-income — told NBC News they have had to reject applications from a mother whose insulin price rose significantly; a father who lost his job during the pandemic and has found only part-time work since; and a mother of five whose only income is disability payments because she has cancer, among others.  

The Biden administration last week announced a years-long goal of making universal school meals permanent. But it still requires the approval of a divided Congress, and advocates are pushing for immediate action. 

The White House strategy starts by expanding access to free meals to 9 million children by 2032. While anti-hunger experts lauded the proposal, they also said many families could not wait for help.

“These changes toward expanding access to all students need to happen as soon as possible,” said Lori Adkins, president of the School Nutrition Association, ​​a trade organization representing 50,000 school nutrition employees. “Some kids are coming to school with no food from home and no money.”

Discussions about the cost of lunch are now commonplace in school cafeterias, said Anji Branch, child nutrition director at Gooding School District in Idaho, who also leads the Idaho School Nutrition Association.

“I’ve never had as many students say, ‘Oh, I can’t eat, I don’t have money,’” Branch said, adding that students still receive lunch even if they cannot pay. “As children, they shouldn’t have to be bothered by that.”

In Clarion, Pennsylvania, high school senior Marshall Troese has a hard time justifying the $2.55 price of a school lunch because he knows his family’s budget is tight. Their car broke down before they found out school would be charging for meals again, and Marshall, 17, said he sometimes skips lunch so he isn’t adding to the burden. 

“There’s a point where you get used to being hungry,” he said. On days that he doesn’t eat lunch, he uses change he finds around his house and purchases a small bag of chips from a nearby gas station convenience store after school instead.

Image: Side by side collage of Marshall Troese outside the convenience store and Marshall with the change in his coin jar.
On days Marshall Troese doesn’t eat lunch, he uses change he finds around his house and heads to a gas station convenience store for a snack after school instead.Jared Wickerham for NBC News

He tries to ignore his hunger at school on those days.

“I will be honest,” Marshall said, “Sometimes it does get a bit distracting in class.”

Who qualifies for free lunch now?

With universal school meals over as of June, the threshold for qualifying for discounted meals has now returned to pre-pandemic rules in most of the country: at or below 130% of the federal poverty level and between 130% and 185% of the federal poverty level for reduced-price meals. This school year, a family of four earning $36,075 or less is eligible for free meals, and a family of four earning $51,338 or less is eligible for reduced-price meals.

The price of school meals varies across the country. According to the Agriculture Department’s most recent data available, which is from the 2016-2017 school year, school lunch costs an average of $2.57. 

For a family with two kids, that would mean lunch would cost $5.14 a day, or $925.20 for a 180-day school year. For a family with an income of $52,000, it becomes a significant expense — especially given that Moody’s Analytics has found that the cost of basic necessities is up $460 per month compared with a year ago. 

Many had expected meals to be free for another school year, but Congress did not extend the waiver, with Republicans reportedly opposed because of the approximately $11 billion price tag.

Nonetheless, a majority of Americans are in favor of universal school meals: 63% of voters support legislation that would make free school meals permanently available to all students, according to the anti-hunger group Food Research & Action Center.

Those in favor acknowledge that it requires hefty funding but say it should be a priority.

“Our kids getting fed should not be political,” said Billie Veach, nutrition director at Adel DeSoto Minburn Community School District in Iowa and the School Nutrition Association of Iowa president.

Stopgap measures for those who cannot pay

If students cannot pay for school lunch, that doesn’t mean they are denied food.

In recent years, most districts eliminated “lunch-shaming” policies and feed children the same meal as everyone else, then contact their parents to alert them to unpaid meal balances. The kindness comes at a cost: Some districts have seen their meal debt balloon. 

Heather Plain, child nutrition director at Bonneville Joint School District No. 93 in Idaho, said her district incurred more than $6,000 in meal debt within the first week of school. Part of the problem was not everyone knew school meals cost money again. The district has received 3,200 applications so far for free and reduced-price meals among its more than 13,000 students.

Plain said she found it frustrating to need to do paperwork again after two years of being able to serve free meals without it.

“It really becomes exclusionary,” she said.

Getting families to fill out paperwork is not always easy. Many are busy and some worry about sharing private information, said Krista Hamilton-Neal, nutrition services director of Stillwater Public Schools in Oklahoma. 

“My great fear is that somebody is not applying because it is going to cause a problem with their citizenship status,” she said, even though immigration status does not affect eligibility and applicants cannot be deported based on the form.

For Haleyville City Schools in Alabama, where the number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals is 71%, meal debt hovers around $75, said Emma Anne Hallman, child nutrition director and president-elect of the Alabama School Nutrition Association. This is in large part thanks to donors in the community who volunteer to pay off meal debt — something that often happens in other districts too, but that is not sustainable or scalable. 

“They ride the bus for free. They get their books for free. Let’s just feed our kids. We’ve proven that we can do it.”

Heather Plain, Child nutrition director

All 12 nutrition directors who spoke to NBC News said the ideal solution would be bringing universal school meals back immediately.

“They ride the bus for free. They get their books for free,” Plain said. “Let’s just feed our kids. We’ve proven that we can do it.”

With universal meals over on the federal level, states step in 

While most places have returned to paid meals, five states continue to offer universal school meals. Others offer free breakfast for all students.

Jennifer, a New Hampshire mom of a fourth grader who asked to be identified by first name only to protect her child’s privacy, said she wishes her state was among those that had taken action. On disability because she can no longer work due to an autoimmune condition, she was shocked to see that her disability payments plus child support from her recent divorce disqualified her daughter for free or reduced-price lunch. 

Her daughter prefers school lunch, but it’s more cost-effective to pack a lunch from home, which is typically a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich, applesauce and a Go-Gurt yogurt tube. 

While anti-hunger advocates say their goal is securing nationwide universal school meals, they have proposed compromises. One is raising the threshold for who qualifies for free and reduced-price meals nationwide, a change that could be especially helpful for applicants in places with a higher cost of living, something that application does not take into account.

Image: Marshall Troese walks the route from his school to the University Korner gas station on  in Clarion, Pa.
Marshall Troese tries to ignore his hunger when he skips lunch. “Sometimes it does get a bit distracting in class,” he said. Jared Wickerham for NBC News

Another is eliminating the reduced-price category so kids receive a free meal instead — something that was proposed for this school year but ultimately cut from legislation that extended other child nutrition waivers. 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., pushed for the return of the reduced-price category. A spokesperson for Paul said in an email, “Spending money we don’t have causes inflation that disproportionately hurts low-income families.”

“I’ve shed more tears this year than I have in my 24 years of food service.”

Lori Danella, director of nutrition services

Families are already hurting, especially if they are on the cusp of qualifying, said Lori Danella, director of nutrition services for Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Missouri. 

“I wish there was some way to help when those families just don’t quite make it,” she said. “I’ve shed more tears this year than I have in my 24 years of food service.”

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