Massachusetts becomes 5th state to guarantee students access to free school meals in 2022-2023.

Massachusetts becomes fifth state to guarantee students access to free school meals for the 2022-2023 school year.


Leading the campaign for universal school meals

At the start of 2021, Project Bread announced our intention to take a bold step to end childhood hunger, by starting with what happens in our schools. We built the Feed Kids Coalition,  a diverse cohort of stakeholders, from school districts to social justice organizations, and launched our Feed Kids Campaign, in support of universal free school meals for all Massachusetts students! 

Today - July 28, 2022 - Governor Baker signed into law a one-year extension of School Meals for All for the 2022-2023 school year.

This is a huge step forward toward realizing our vision of a Massachusetts where hunger is permanently solved, by investing in universal school meals for the coming school year,  every student  in MA who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch will receive meals at no cost to their family. 

Project Bread and the Feed Kids Coalition applaud and celebrate the leadership of the Commonwealth in ensuring that despite federal inaction, 400,000 students will continue to have access to school meals. As part of the Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget, this extension makes Massachusetts only the fifth state to guarantee access to free meals this coming school year.

Without a doubt, policy change is simply the most impactful solution to address hunger.


Universal free school meals in Massachusetts have been an enormous success over the past two school  years. In March 2022, lunch participation was 42.3% higher for school lunch over pre-pandemic (March 2019) participation rates in schools not previously able to provide universal school meals. Statewide this represented an additional 53,744 more students eating lunch daily when free from the barriers of the old rules of the National School Lunch Program.

THE FEED KIDS COALITION

Champions of School Meals For All

“This is a moment in time when all our eyes have been opened to the vast disparities faced by the children of Massachusetts when accessing the resources needed to be healthy and learn. While the road to equity is long and complex, this extension of School Meals for All is a straightforward and significant step in ensuring students are ready to learn next year,” said Erin McAleer, CEO and President of Project Bread. “On behalf of our partners, we thank our leaders in state government, especially Governor Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker Ron Mariano, Senate Ways & Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues, House Ways & Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, Senate Education Chair Jason Lewis, House Education Chair Alice Peisch, and our legislative champions on this issue Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas.”

“This is a moment in time when all our eyes have been opened to the vast disparities faced by the children of Massachusetts when accessing the resources needed to be healthy and learn.

erin mcaleer eats school lunch

While the road to equity is long and complex, this extension of School Meals for All is a straightforward and significant step in ensuring students are ready to learn next year,” said Erin McAleer, CEO and President of Project Bread. “On behalf of our partners, we thank our leaders in state government, especially Governor Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker Ron Mariano, Senate Ways & Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues, House Ways & Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, Senate Education Chair Jason Lewis, House Education Chair Alice Peisch, and our legislative champions on this issue Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas.”

"The School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts is extremely grateful for the 1-year extension of free school meals and the state's commitment to investing in our kids!”

...said DebraLee Mugford, President of the association, a Feed Kids coalition member, and Director of Food and Nutrition at Tewksbury Public Schools. “Many families are still struggling with the impacts of inflation and food insecurity while child nutrition programs are still combating escalating food and paper costs, as well as supply shortages and disruptions. SNA of Massachusetts extends our thanks to all of our legislators for providing the much-needed support as we all continue to recover."

This one-year extension comes at a critical time for many families. Rebecca Wood, a parent and advocate with the Feed Kids Coalition explained the impact this will have on her and her daughter:  “The impact of living in poverty simply doesn't disappear once one's circumstances improve. It takes time to piece life back together after a period of financial hardship...

"...Even though we no longer live in a food insecure household, universal school meals will help me to continue to move towards a more stable life for me and my daughter.”

MORE WAYS THE STATE BUDGET IS INVESTING IN FOOD SECURITY

The 2022-2023 school year also marks the implementation of An Act Regarding Breakfast After the Bell, passed in 2020, and An Act Promoting Student Nutrition, passed in 2021. Project Bread and our partners look forward to supporting the efforts of school nutrition staff, administrators, teachers, and communities in providing robust access to school meals in September and beyond. 

In addition to ensuring access to free school meals, the budget includes the following investments in FY2023:

  • $900,000 for Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline to better support individuals and families seeking food assistance and connect more eligible households to federal nutrition programs.

  • $700,000 for Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Program to support schools and community programs to better serve children by increasing access to school and summer meals.

  • Legislative language on a Common Application Portal to require state agencies to develop a streamlined process for people applying for basic needs benefits in Massachusetts. This will become state law and have a profound impact on closing the gap in those eligible for assistance and those receiving it in FY 2023 and beyond.

  • $12 million for the Healthy Incentives Program to boost the purchasing power of households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to buy local fruits and vegetables.

  • A 10% increase to Transitional Aid for Families with Dependent Children and Elderly, Disabled and Children to ensure fewer families live in deep poverty and are able to purchase everyday necessities starting in October.

GET INVOLVED

Learn how you can help make Universal School Meals permanent. 

Take Action today!

Back to Blog Left Arrow