About our Bill

School Meals for All

Today in Massachusetts, 1 in 5 households with children are food insecure, with Black, Latino, and multiracial families disproportionately impacted. Inflation and recent public health crises have shed light on this situation. 

However, we know this was always a crisis. Too many people in our state have struggled to meet their most basic of human needs – food – for a long time. And kids have always been one of the groups most impacted. We can end childhood hunger start with what happens in schools.

The Important Role of School Meals in Solving Childhood Hunger

School meals are a critical source of nutrition for many children, helping them learn and be active in the short term, and thrive academically, physically, and emotionally in the long term. School meals also establish lifelong healthy eating habits that can reduce the cases and severity of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, along with the cost associated with these diseases.

School meals can account for over half of a child’s daily calories. These are children who might not otherwise have reliable access to healthy food at home. But right now, more than half of students who could benefit from school meals aren’t eating them. While there are many reasons for this, two of the biggest barriers that stop children from participating in school meals are the cost of purchasing meals and the stigma of being singled out as needing a school meal.

Kindergartener enjoys an apple at her desk

The Solution

How do we make school meals better?

With legislation that would guarantee school meals for all! Also known as universal school meals, our policy proposal would allow every student who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch to receive meals at no cost to their family. The cost would be covered by the existing National School Lunch Program federal reimbursement combined with a supplemental state reimbursement.

With this policy, we choose to imagine a new system. One without paperwork to show a family’s income; one without meal debt; one without stigma. One that is equitable. A system where the focus is squarely on feeding kids quality school meals. 

What Will the Bill do?

  • Require all schools to make available school breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge to the student or their family. 
  • Require the cost of providing school meals, that is not covered by the federal government, be covered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Maximize federal reimbursements for meals by encouraging schools to support Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach to families. Students in households enrolled in SNAP receive free school meals reimbursed by the federal government. 

Passing Universal School Meals will probably be one of the most prideful things that I'll have done in the Maine legislature when I look back on it.”

Troy Jackson, Maine Senate President

The Impact


In 2019, an estimated 26% of food insecure children are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Many more likely live in a home where an economic crisis—a lost job, an unexpected medical bill, a global pandemic—would mean a tightening of an already tight budget. We can ensure that, while at school, every child is fed and ready to learn by passing universal school meals legislation.

Whether it is a long-term condition or an acute need during a crisis that a family has never experienced before, school meals are a critical resource to a family that is struggling to put food on the table. We don’t require some students to pay for their education at public schools, or books, or visits to the school nurse based on their family’s income – all things, like food, that are critical to education. Why should school meals be any different?

kids eating school lunch
school meals

The Impact


Increasing access is a critical ingredient for quality. Similar to how Massachusetts addressed health care access before turning to cost containment, we believe that we must prioritize responding to alarmingly high rates of childhood food insecurity by expanding access to school meals now.

Under the traditional system, participation rates were low primarily because of cost and stigma. By addressing those barriers, we have seen increase dparticipation which leads to greater revenue for school nutrition programs. This revenue, in turn, can be invested in ingredients, equipment, and staff training. Districts across the Commonwealth have seen this improvement in meals under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) including Salem, Springfield, and Wareham to name just a few.

Salem Public Schools, for example, was able to use additional revenue to purchase a refrigerated truck. The truck was used to transport organic fruits and vegetables, more cheaply and efficiently, between schools to be used in all their meals.