Free School Meals Bill by Rep. Vargas Gets Boost from Maine Senate President

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson. (Courtesy photograph.)

Rep. Andy X. Vargas. (Courtesy photograph.)

Rep. Andy Vargas’ bill to provide free school meals got a boost last week from a top Maine lawmaker.

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson urged Massachusetts to follow his state’s lead in passing a similar bill before the Massachusetts legislature. He testified before the Education Committee in support of universal school meals legislation sponsored in the House by Vargas of Haverhill and Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett.

“As a lawmaker, and more importantly as a parent, I want children in Maine and all across this great nation to get a chance to focus on being kids, on playing with their friends and learning how to read, not worrying about where their next meal is going to come from and who’s going to pay for it,” Jackson said. “Now I imagine the folks in Massachusetts want the very same thing that I do. No child should have to ever prove that they’re worthy of nutritious food, regardless of which state that they live in.”

Introducing himself as “a fifth-generation logger from northern Maine,” Jackson spoke of his own experience accessing reduced-price meals as a child, saying some of his classmates thought he was rich because his lunch wasn’t free while others looked down on him for not paying full price.

Under the bills, families would not be required to sign up for free meals or provide income information.

Vargas said students are more academically successful with universal free meals, making them “just as essential as universal free desks and visits to the school nurse.”

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