Bill to make free School Meals for All permanent in MA awaits vote

Project Bread

News

A boy wearing a mask looks over his shoulder to the back of class while sitting at his school desk

Background

Massachusetts is on the precipice of making history by guaranteeing free School Meals for All children…

During the pandemic, Massachusetts has had universal school meals for the first time made possible by temporarily isued waivers, removing barriers that have kept many students from participating in school meal programs.

To keep school meals accessible for all students, The Feed Kids Coalition—led by Project Bread —joined with bill sponsors Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas to file legislation on Monday, February 2, 2021 for School Meals for All.

This legislation, if enacted, would make universal school meals permenant in Massachusetts, allowing every student who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch to receive it—at no cost to their family and with no requirement to sign up or provide income or other information. 

Making our case for School Meals for All

The hearing for An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (H.714/S.314)

The hearing for An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (H.714/S.314)  took place Tuesday, January 4, 2022  and we made our case for School Meals for All!

Organized by the Feed Kids Coalition, 21 experts and leaders across sectors gave passionate oral testimony to the Joint Committee on Education that illustrated why this transformative bill, An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (H.714/S.314), demands their support and should move through committee. Who testified?

5 elected officials called for state action:

  • Maine Senate President Troy Jackson
  • Vice Mayor Allana Mallon, Cambridge City Council 
  • Greenfield School Committee Chair Amy Proietti
  • Senator DiDomenico, bill sponsor
  • Representative Vargas, bill sponsor

 

3 physicians and health leaders illustrated the link between hunger and health:

  • Cambridge Health Alliance, Dr. Amy Smith
  • Boston Children’s Hospital, Vanessa Weisbrod, Director, Boston Children's Hospital Celiac Disease Program
  • MA Association of Health & Hospitals, Allie Cataldo

 

4 educators and school nutrition experts shared stories of hunger in the classroom and the burdens on schools:

  • Jennifer Amendola, Boston Public Schools teacher
  • National Association of Social Workers MA (NASW-MA), Ashley Waterberg
  • School Nutrition Association of MA (SNA), Sarah Coughlin
  • Executive Director of Finance and Administration Saugus Public Schools, Pola Andrews

Jen Amendola, Boston Public Schools teacher, testifies for School Meals for All

Rebecca Wood, Parent & Advocate, testifies for School Meals for All

2 business leaders testified that School Meals for All cultivates future leaders:

  • Peter Levangie, President & CEO of Bay State Milling, Chair of Project Bread’s Board of Directors
  • Alliance for Business Leadership, Board Member Andrea Silbert

 

3 anti-hunger organizations explained the magnitude of the child hunger crisis:

  • Erin McAleer, President & CEO, Project Bread and leader of the Feed Kids Coalition
  • Greater Boston Food Bank, Molly Kepner
  • El Buen Samaritano, Maricelis Gonzales

 

4 social justice advocates — community leaders, students, and parents — shared their story:

  • Rebecca Wood, parent advocate
  • Addario Miranda, Lowell student and Project 351 Ambassador 
  • Rabbi Tom Alpert, Temple Sinai of Sharon
  • Metrowest YMCA,  Jeanne Sherlock

Alongside powerful oral testimony, the Feed Kids Coalition mobilized an outpouring of grassroots support from advocates and groups across Massachusetts. 

  • Over 1,000 messages were sent by advocates urging legislators to support this critical bill. Will you help us get to 1,500?

  • The coalition submitted 9 letters of support to the committee to demonstrate the broad support behind this bill, including: 

    • 194 social workers

    • 186 educators and school nutrition workers

    • 93 Feed Kids coalition organizations

    • 80 physicians and health professionals

    • 58 anti-hunger agencies 

    • 27 faith leaders

    • and 20 municipal leaders

  • Before the hearing, the day kicked off with an inspiring press briefing featuring remarks from the highest ranking state legislator in Maine, Senate President Troy Jackson, Dr. Awab Ali Ibrahim of MassGeneral Hospital, bill sponsors Senator DiDomenico and Representative Vargas, Project Bread President Erin McAleer, and parent advocate Rebecca Wood. Nearly 90 members of the press, media, and supporters attended to hear their inspiring words.  

What comes next

The stakes are high for School Meals for All coming out of Tuesday's hearing. If the committee votes against this bill, an entire generation of children who have just suffered through a global pandemic will lose access to universal school meals. We can’t let the state put barriers back up to the only two reliable meals some children are receiving.

How you can help

Don’t let the Education Committee make a decision without hearing from you.

The future of this bill—and the future of 250,000 kids who benefit from School Meals for All—is in your hands.

Share Your Story

Do you have a personal story about school meals?

The most powerful tool we have to help make School Meals for All a reality is stories, like all of those who testified. Stories shape how lawmakers view hunger by connecting them on a personal level to the issue. By sharing your story, you are bringing us closer to a Massachusetts that guarantees School Meals for All.

Feed Kids. Solve Hunger. School Meals for All
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