School meals are a critical source of nutrition to many children. But right now, too many children who could benefit from school meals aren’t eating them. By ensuring all students have access to school meals at no cost, more children could receive the nutrition they need at school–helping them to thrive academically, physically, and emotionally.
School Meals for All or Universal School Meals allow every student who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch to receive it, at no cost to their family. When everyone has equitable access to school meals, all students have the best opportunity to learn and thrive in and out of the classroom.
Cost and stigma are two major barriers to students eating meals at school. Schools adopting meals for all saw higher participation by removing these barriers and guaranteeing every child greater access to school meals.
“Students have shared that they're happy they can come in, grab food, and don't have to worry about accounts, embarrassment, or someone saying "you're over your limit."”
Alan Hogan, School Nutrition Director, Monson Public Schools
Explore the timeline below from how we got started, to where we are today, and our impact along the way, in our campaign to make school meals for all permenant in Massachusett!
COVID-19 worsened our already pressing hunger crisis, especially for children. Food insecurity increased from 1 in 10 children to 1 in 5 households with children in Massachusetts. Project Bread puts in motion their plan to file School Meals for all Legislation.
In January 2021, our allies Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas filed An Act Relative to Universal School Meals which would create a permanent School Meals for All Policy in Massachusetts. And Project Bread launched the Feed Kids Campaign to champion this legislation.
The Feed Kids Coalition was convened to support this campaign. and grew to over 120 members. A diverse cohort of stakeholders, from school districts to social justice organizations committed to solving childhood hunger. We secured co-sponsorship support of our bill from over half of the legislature, 110 Senators and Representatives in total.
Together we contacted our legislature more than 3,000 times during our first bill cycle, urging they support School Meals for All. While the bill did not pass during the 2021-2022 legislative session, the legislature included $110 million in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget to cover the cost of School Meals for All during the 2022-2023 school year!
In October, 56,665 more kids ate school lunch daily because of School Meals for All (2022 vs 2019). The benefits of School Meals for All go beyond the food, supporting our children’s health and that of the entire school community. Schools are in agreement their is decreased stigma, fewer visits to the school nurse, students attitues and readiness for learning has improved, and caregivers have more food at home to feed themselves and their children.
ate school lunch daily because of School Meals for All
January 2023 a new legislative session began! And our bill sponsors refiled our bill to make School Meals for All permanent in Massachusetts!! Our first step was to get as many legislators to sign on to cosponsor the bill as possible.
Over 4,200 individuals contacted their legislators over 18,000 times resulting over two-thirds of the Massachusetts Legislature signing onto this policy. Noticing the impact on schools and families across the Commonwealth and this groundswell of support, the Massachusetts House of Representative included permanent School Meals for All in its budget. On August 9th, Governor Healey signed the budget into law making Massachusetts the 8th state to make School Meals for All permanent!
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government covered the cost of school meals. As a result, every student in MA had access to free school meals. When Congress failed to extend this critical policy, our legislature funded a 1-year extension for the 2022-2023 school year. NOW is the time to make this investment in health and education permanent.
would lose access to school meals if SMFA is not extended
“No student is required to pay fees before entering their classroom to learn. The same should apply to the fundamental need of food.”
Erin McAleer, CEO, Project Bread