Thank Governor Healey and the Legislature for Making School Meals for All Permanent in Massachusetts!
Today, Governor Healey and the Massachusetts Legislature made a historic investment and commitment to solving childhood hunger by making Massachusetts the 8th state to make School Meals for All permanent, beginning immediately for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year!
Mother of three Musu-kulla Massaquoi is celebrating this major win for Massachusetts with her community. Her youngest, a 7-year-old, has been able to receive free meals at school each day, even when she was furloughed from a previous job during the pandemic. Now that School Meals for All is permanent in Massachusetts, families with school children can continue to save around $1,200 each year on groceries!
“With School Meals for All, my budget is less stressed and so is my schedule. I hate to waste food, but buying healthy options my son will actually eat is a challenge,” says Massaquoi.
In both her work as a Community Program Coordinator with the Lower Roxbury Coalition and Wellness Initiative and in her personal life, the impact of School Meals for All cannot be overstated. Now that it’s permanent, schools and parents can rely on consistent support keeping their kids fed.
“We would also have to create a whole new routine if school meals were not provided, making lunch the night before, waking up earlier to eat oatmeal or cream of wheat before school, and thinking creatively so he doesn’t get bored of the same meals.”
For Massaquoi’s son and hundreds of thousands of other students like him, school meals have provided a reliable source of nutrition, enabling success in school and in life. Now, with permanent School Meals for All, it will be easier foreven more students to stay fed at school and to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
School Meals for All, a policy first implemented in March 2020, has eliminated the largest barriers to participation in school meals: paperwork, cost, and stigma. Now and forever, every child who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch will be able to receive those meals at no cost to their family.
When Project Bread announced our Feed Kids campaign in January 2021 to make School Meals for All permanent in Massachusetts, universal school meals had yet to be adopted by any other state. But we knew coming out of the pandemic, the time was now— and our supporters agreed. Just two years later, the program we envisioned together has come to life and sparked a national movement!
Massachusetts has joined 7 states, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, and Michigan in passing laws to make School Meals for All permanent!
To support our groundbreaking mission of ending childhood hunger, we convened the Feed Kids Coalition: a diverse cohort of committed stakeholders, including school districts, social justice organizations, healthcare institutions, houses of worship, and many others. The Coalition grew to over 130 members strong in 2021, with bipartisan support for School Meals for All from two-thirds of the Massachusetts state legislature— 134 senators and representatives in total. Between the diverse members of the Coalition, one thing brought them all here, together— a deep motivation to end childhood hunger for good.
Then, we activated our grassroots network, Project Bread’s Action Team. A force of over 4,200 community advocates e-mailing, calling, and posting social messages letting their legislators know how important this is to their families, their neighbors, and their communities. Together, we first saw the success of extending universal free meals in the 2022-2023 school year. Today, we are seeing the ultimate impact–permanently free School Meals for All.
This policy has proven effective on many levels. First and foremost, it feeds more kids. Between October 2019 and October 2022, over 80,000 additional students ate lunch daily in schools not previously providing universal free meals. These meals are especially critical because they can account for up to half of a student's daily nutrition and represent one of the healthiest sources of food available to students.
This yields additional benefits, including:
Higher-quality school meals
Increased food security
Special thanks to Speaker Ron Mariano, Chairman Michlewitz, and Assistant Majority Leader Alice Peisch; as the House first proposed extending the school meals program in their FY ‘23 budget, then further proposed making the program permanent in their budget proposal this Spring. Their leadership on this issue has been instrumental. We want to express our gratitude to:
Governor Maura Healey for not only signing today’s budget into law, but for leading on ensuring this program was sufficiently funded in the 2022-2023 school year in her first major piece of legislation as Governor.
Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas for their longstanding as sponsors of this originating legislation, and leadership advocating for feeding children in Massachusetts.
Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Senator Michael Rodrigues for their commitment and leadership in supporting low-income households.
Senate Chair Jason Lewis and House Chair Denise Garlick of the Joint Committee on Education for recognizing the importance of school meals to education.
The 134 members of the Legislature that cosponsored An Act Relative to Universal School Meals.
The over 130 partners that make up the Feed Kids Coalition.
Project Bread’s Action Team for using their voices to advocate for Universal School Meals. You flooded legislators with calls, emails, and tweets— and they clearly heard you!
Project Bread’s generous supporters who step up for Massachusetts students and spread awareness of Universal School Meals in their networks and neighborhoods.
Project Bread could not be more thankful for the work our partners across sectors achieved to bring our common vision to life. We are extremely grateful to the members of the Feed Kids Coalition, without whom this incredible achievement would not have been possible.
To all who have supported the passing of this bill in any way— thank you. Your action, your advocacy, your generosity, and your encouragement are what made School Meals for All possible. We did it!!!
In addition to ensuring access to free school meals, the budget includes the following In addition to ensuring access to free school meals, the budget includes the following investments in FY2024:
$900,000 for Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline to better support individuals and families seeking food assistance and to 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.
An additional $5 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 April.
$1 million for the Massachusetts Hunger Free Campus Initiatives that provide grants to address food insecurity among college students.
$1 million to support food literacy programs in public schools.
Project Bread is so grateful for Governor Healey and the Legislature’s continued commitment to food security in Massachusetts. Please join us in thanking Governor Healey today for signing this policy into law, and creating a fuller future for Massachusetts!
Now that our mission to make School Meals for All permanent in Massachusetts is complete, we can dig into what’s next to end childhood hunger together. Your donation today means our work together continues so that more kids will start their school day with breakfast, kids will eat better quality meals in school, and more eligible families will get help buying groceries through SNAP.