New York City, NY — Millions of more students will receive free school meals under an expanded federal program for schools serving low-income communities.
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture recently announced that nearly 3,000 added school districts serving more than five million students will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch at no cost.
“While there is still more work ahead to ensure every K-12 student in the nation can access healthy school meals at no cost, this is a significant step on the pathway toward that goal," said Stacy Dean, USDA deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, in a statement.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress made meals temporarily free to all students. As this initiative stopped last year, there have been eight states across the nation that have made school meals free to all students no matter their families’ income.
The states include: California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont.
However, it still remains a fight to expand this model nationwide. Anna Korsen, policy and program director at the nonprofit Full Plates Full Potential, believes implementing this model of universal meals to schools serving low-income communities would help financial burdens on many families.
"The federal poverty guidelines that dictate who gets a free meal and who doesn't are really outdated," Korsen, told the Associated Press. "There are so many families that on paper don't qualify for a free meal, and they can get lumped into this group of … families that can afford to pay for lunch or breakfast at school. But really, those families are living paycheck to paycheck."
Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said the initiative is a “step toward fulfilling the promise of healthy school meals for all.”
"Increasing access to free, healthy school breakfast and lunch will decrease childhood hunger, improve child health and student readiness, and put our nation on the path to better nutrition and wellness,” said Vilsack.
Kailyn Rhone, (she/her) is from Florida, but is an NYC-based journalist covering education, technology and culture. Follow her on X @onlykailyn.
Edited by Nykeya Woods