In 2020, Congress gave USDA authority to issue child nutrition waivers, which permitted districts to serve meals to all students at no cost, also known as universal school meals. Having access to free meals at school helps alleviate the burden for thousands of families facing food insecurity.
But families stand to lose that access to school meals free of charge very soon when the federally funded program, universal school meals, expire on June 30. If Congress doesn’t take action, state policymakers have the opportunity to step up to extend programs locally.
Below are excerpts from three opinion-editorials authored by state community leaders who explain the importance of state policymakers taking action to support school meals for all at no charge:
“We are facing the heartbreaking possibility of canceling Mayfield Independent School District’s school meals program this summer, which would be devastating for thousands of students who live in Mayfield and in three other school districts that we serve over the summer.
If school meals for all at no charge ends after June 30, we simply won’t have the funds to reach all the children in need of food.”
“Any educator can likely tell you — first-hand — that hungry students have trouble learning. Kids focus on food rather than their school work, and research shows that their brain development and overall ability to learn suffer as a result.
School meals are key to making sure no student faces hunger during the school day. Nearly 30 million students participate in school lunch programs nationwide — three-quarters of whom typically qualify for free- or reduced-price meals — according to pre-pandemic data.”
“Prior to the pandemic, more than 120,000 children in Massachusetts didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. Since COVID-19 arrived in the US, food insecurity rates in our state have doubled as families have faced increased financial hurdles from job loss to inflation.
Although our food insecurity statistics are staggering, there is a clear way to help end childhood hunger: by continuing to offer school meals at no charge for every student.”
You can read the full piece from each of the authors in their original publications:
Read Leah’s in the Courier-Journal.
Read Rachel’s in Colorado Politics.
Read Jennifer’s in Commonwealth Magazine.
Nutrition Directors Make the Case: School Meals for All!
Nationwide, more than 13 million children face food insecurity, meaning they don’t consistently have enough food to eat. For these kids and their families, school meals are often the difference between having enough to eat or going hungry.
For decades, school meals have been helping to prevent hunger and provide nutrients that kids need to learn and thrive. These meals are essential to tens of millions of children and families, especially those living furthest from economic opportunity.
Six Tips to Help Advocate for School Meals for All in Your State
Ensuring students have consistent access to healthy meals at school is not only necessary for helping families recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a critical strategy for alleviating hunger, food insecurity, and poverty across our state.