The headline says it! Today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives took a remarkable stand against childhood hunger in our state and declared that every student should have access to school meals without the barriers of cost or stigma - permanently!
Project Bread and the Feed Kids Coalition applaud the visionary leadership of Speaker Ron Mariano, Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, Vice Chair Ann-Maragret Ferrante, Education Chair Denise Garlick, and our School Meals for All champion, Representative Andy Vargas.
This Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposal is also an enormous credit to our devoted partners in the Feed Kids Coalition and advocates from across the Commonwealth. Over 900 people called, e-mailed, and tweeted at their elected officials to ensure School Meals for All continued to be a top priority inside the State House this year! We have a few steps left to go, but we would not be at this point without their incredible and far-reaching advocacy.
First funded by the federal government in March 2020, the Massachusetts House of Representatives stepped up in 2022, after Congress ended the pandemic-related national universal school meals, and funded a one-year extension of free school meals for the 2022-2023 school year. Between October 2019 and October 2022, over 80,000 additional students ate lunch daily in schools not previously providing universal free meals. These meals are particularly critical because they can account for up to a half of a student's daily nutrition and represent one of the healthiest sources of food available to students.
79% of surveyed MA residents are in support of School Meals for All, according to a recent UMASS Amherst/WCVB poll.
The House’s proposed budget is a big step toward ending childhood hunger in Massachusetts. Project Bread's next step, along with the Feed Kids Coalition leading the campaign to make school meals for all permanent in MA, is to make sure the State Senate’s budget proposal in May matches what the House has already offered. If this happens, we are confident that the legislature will pass and Governor Healey will sign School Meals for All permanently into law this summer.
Project Bread thanks the House of Representatives for their partnership and urges them to maintain this provision through the budget process. We also urge the Massachusetts Senate to follow suit in their subsequent budget proposal as Massachusetts families continue to face food insecurity at staggering numbers. School Meals for All is a critical step in the fight to solve childhood hunger in the Commonwealth.
$600,000 for Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline to better support individuals and families seeking food assistance and connect more eligible households to federal nutrition programs. This is less than last year. Stay tuned for action opportunities related to this funding.
$700,000 for Project Bread’s Child Nutrition Outreach Program to support schools and community programs to better serve children by increasing access to school and summer meals.
An additional $5 million for the Healthy Incentives Program to boost the purchasing power of households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to buy local fruits and vegetables.