Eight U.S. states now provide meals to schoolchildren free of charge, with Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont joining California and Maine in the new academic year. It's was effectively trialed during the Covid pandemic, and advocates are urging congress to act on nationwide plans.
Schools nationwide offered free meals to all at the height of the pandemic, which sent participation soaring. But when federal aid ran out in spring 2022, most states reverted to free or discounted meals only for kids who qualified. That left out families that weren't poor enough, stigmatized those who were, and added to growing school meal debt. "We know that students learn better when they are well nourished," said Emily Honer, director of nutrition programs for the Minnesota Department of Education. "And we know that students a lot of time don't know where their meal is going to come from. We're taking that (fear) away."
"School meal debt" is one of the most casually shocking things in America, and it's up against strong competition. Children in debt for food to their schools.
Lorraine Martinez, the school secretary, said some children used to suffer stomach cramps or would feel dizzy because they didn't have enough to eat. "Now everybody has the food and water and milk — the nutrition — that they need," she said.
Republicans want to ban free school lunch provision outright, among other things, to help pay for permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.