Free meals proposed for all students

Congress should permanantly expand the school food program so that all public school students can eat breakfast and lunch for free, said the School Nutrition Association on Tuesday. The association said many school food directors expect to run a deficit this school year because of school closures and the higher cost of preparing and serving meals during the pandemic.

“Providing all students equal access to a healthy school breakfast and lunch will contribute to the academic achievement, health, and wellness of America’s youth at a critical time for our country,” said SNA President Reggie Ross in calling for universal free meals. “School meal programs are proven to support learning and foster healthy eating habits.”

In a position paper, the association also said schools depend heavily on USDA-provided foods to prepare meals. “With participation drastically down due to the COVID-19 school closures, Congress should direct the USDA to utilize fiscal year 2019 participation data when calculating” food donations, it said.

Around 30 million students participated daily in the school lunch program in recent years, three-fourths of them eating free or reduced-price meals. The USDA has not posed participation rates for school food programs during the pandemic. It adjusted rules so that schools could serve meals in the classroom, in cafeterias, or curbside for pickup and allowed schools to serve meals for free to all students.

The SNA position paper is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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