By passing An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (HD.766/SD1028), we can ensure that, while at school, every child is fed and ready to learn without worrying about the cost or stigma associated with accessing school meals.
Last summer, Governor Baker signed into law a one year extension of School Meals for All for the 2022-2023 school year. This means that there is no cost to families for any student to receive school breakfast or lunch for this current school year.
This came at an incredibly important time as families in Massachusetts have been struggling now more than ever to keep food on the table. While we are grateful to the Massachusetts Legislature for extending this program, it is in danger of expiring at the end of this school year if action is not taken to make it permanent. This would leave more than 400,000 kids in Massachusetts without the same robust access to school meals.
Out of the 121,560 children in Massachusetts who were food insecure in 2019, 24% of them were ineligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Universal school meals help to address this gap by providing school meals to all children, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Universal free school meals in Massachusetts have been an enormous success over the past two school years. On average, 56,665 more children participated daily in school lunch in October 2022 compared to October 2019 when free from the barriers of the old rules of the National School Lunch Program. These meals could save families up to $1,200 per student per year.
Addario Miranda, a high school student and advocate with lived experience of food insecurity affirms, “As a state and as a people, imagine the impact you could make knowing that parents don’t have to worry about whether or not their child can eat at school.”
Emily Cook, School Nutrition Director of Danvers Public Schools feels, "Universal free meals has definitely reduced stigma among students and has improved the overall attitude between staff and kids, as there is less pressure about tracking down kids for money and we can just worry about feeding them healthy, fresh meals.”
We urge our legislators to cosponsor this essential legislation to protect children in communities across the Commonwealth. We also invite you to join our campaign relaunch on January 26th in Room 428 of the Massachusetts State House at 10am.
We need your support now more than ever to advocate for School Meals for All and ensure that it is passed in permanency. One of the best ways to engage elected officials in an issue that you are passionate about is through writing to your state senators and representatives and asking them to show their support by cosponsoring An Act Relative to Universal School Meals.
The Feed Kids Coalition – composed of more than 120 diverse partners including health, education, business, social services, and faith-based organizations—urges you to support the passage of legislation to make School Meals for All permanent and take a bold step to end childhood hunger.