A bill, sponsored by Rep. Andy X. Vargas to extend universal school meals for another year, cleared House Ways and Means Committee in its spending plan for the year that begins in July.
The House included $110 million dollars to extend meals for another full year for all public school students. If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker, students will continue to receive breakfast and lunch at no charge through the summer of 2023. Since March of 2020, students across the country received free meals as part of federal pandemic relief. Federal waivers that allowed the practice, however, expire in June.
“Throughout the past two school years, universal free school meals have proved what we already knew—school meals are an essential part of public education. The fact that so many districts saw school meal participation increase, in some cases as high as 40%, shows the demand and need to continue this program. In the face of federal inaction, I’m grateful that the Mass. House is stepping up to break down stigma and feed all kids,” Vargas said in a statement released Friday.
A coalition of anti-hunger advocates, school nutrition directors and cafeteria staff all led by Project Bread have also advocated for the free meals.
Vargas also won passage of his Breakfast After the Bell legislation last session, and his student nutrition bill earlier this session.
Vargas noted with 1 in 11 Massachusetts children facing hunger, and 27% of food insecure children not being eligible for free or reduced lunch, universal school meals has been critical for Massachusetts families during the pandemic.