Gov. Baker Signs ‘School Meals for All’ Law, Championed Locally by Rep. Vargas After Fed Inaction

Rep. Andy X. Vargas. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

Gov. Charlie Baker put his signature last Thursday on a one-year extension of School Meals for All, championed by Rep. Andy X. Vargas and Sen. Sal DiDomenico.

Project Bread and the Feed Kids Coalition hailed the new law that ensures 400,000 students will continue to have access to school meals despite federal inaction. Massachusetts is the fifth state to guarantee access to free meals this coming school year.

“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,” says Project Bread CEO Erin McAleer.

This past March saw school lunch participation up 42.3% over pre-pandemic 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.

DebraLee Mugford, president of the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts, a Feed Kids coalition member, and director of Food and Nutrition at Tewksbury Public Schools, adds “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.”

The 2022-2023 school year also continues “Breakfast After the Bell,” passed in 2020, and An Act Promoting Student Nutrition, passed in 2021.

Those looking for help obtaining food may call Project Bread’s toll-free FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333, which provides confidential assistance in 180 languages and for the hearing impaired.

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