The state of Massachusetts recently extended free school meals for the 2022-2023 school year. This ensures that all K-12 students can access school meals at no additional cost to their families.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has signed into law a one-year extension of school meals for all, allocating US$110 million to help fight childhood hunger.
“This action will ensure that, despite federal inaction, 400,000 students will continue to have access to free school meals,” Project Bread CEO Erin McAleer told Food Tank. Project Bread is one of the nonprofits advocating for universal free meals in Massachusetts, where one child in eleven suffers from hungeraccording to Feeding America.
“A starving student cannot learn,” McAleer says. “Outside of school, many families struggle with the effects of inflation and high costs for things like housing and health care, which often means less money to spend on food. their family.”
McAleer explains that more than a quarter of food-insecure households in Massachusetts fail to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. This leaves many children hungry, underscoring the need for free school meals for all.
In addition to ensuring access to school lunches, the upcoming state budget will allocate funds for several Project Bread programs. These include their FoodSource Hotline, which helps connect families with food assistance and federal nutrition programs, and the Children’s Nutrition Awareness Program to help schools and community programs increase access to school and summer meals.
The budget will also help support an application portal to create a streamlined process for people applying for benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Health Incentives Program, which increases the power to purchase of households that receive SNAP benefits when purchasing fruits and vegetables.
While McAleer is excited about the extension of free school meals, she hopes to see the change become permanent. “We are committed to passing legislation that would allow all students permanent access to free school meals. We are delighted with the one-year extension of free school meals, but we also know that it is essential to make this a permanent reality.
Project Bread is also calling on more states to take action. “We believe that all states should invest in children and, in fact, the federal government should pass legislation to make school meals free and universal. [available] nationally.”
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Photo courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture