Massachusetts is on the brink of making School Meals for All permanent

Project Bread

Policy Work

Today, the Massachusetts state legislature passed its budget for the fiscal year 2024. They included permanent policies such as School Meals for All— a historic investment and commitment to solving childhood hunger. With Governor Healey’s signature, Massachusetts will be the 8th state to pass School Meals for All into law, and all students will eat free beginning immediately for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.

A Historic Moment for Massachusetts Kids

Mother of three Musu-kulla Massaquoi is awaiting the passage of the budget with her community. Her youngest, a 7-year-old, has been able to receive free meals at school each day, even when she was furloughed from a previous job during the pandemic.

“With School Meals for All, my budget is less stressed and so is my schedule. I hate to waste food, but buying healthy options my son will actually eat is a challenge,” says Massaquoi. 

 In both her work as a Community Program Coordinator with the Lower Roxbury Coalition and Wellness Initiative and in her personal life, the value of School Meals for All cannot be overstated, and making it permanent will allow for the consistency that schools and parents can rely on.

“We would also have to create a whole new routine if school meals were not provided, making lunch the night before, waking up earlier to eat oatmeal or cream of wheat before school, and thinking creatively so he doesn’t get bored of the same meals.”

For Massaquoi’s son and hundreds of thousands of other students like him, school meals have provided a reliable source of nutrition, enabling success in school and in life. Making these meals permanently free will allow hundreds of thousands of students easier access to them.

School Meals for All, first implemented on the federal level in March 2020 and extended by the state last school year, has eliminated the largest barriers to participation in school meals: paperwork, cost, and stigma. After three years of targeted action and advocacy, the end of childhood hunger in Massachusetts is finally within sight. 

All we need now to bring this dream to reality is for Governor Healey to sign the budget to officially make School Meals for All permanent!

Our Collective Impact Made This Happen

When Project Bread announced our Feed Kids Campaign in January 2021 to make School Meals for All permanent in Massachusetts, universal school meals had yet to be adopted by any other state. But we knew coming out of the pandemic, the time was now— and our supporters agreed. Just two years later, the program we envisioned together has come to life and sparked a national movement!

  • Currently, 7 states, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, and Michigan have passed laws to make School Meals for All permanent. As one of the states that started it all, Massachusetts will now be the next to adopt this policy permanently!


To support our groundbreaking mission of ending childhood hunger, we convened the Feed Kids Coalition: a diverse cohort of committed stakeholders, including school districts, social justice organizations, healthcare institutions, houses of worship, and many others. The Coalition grew to over 130 members strong, with bipartisan support for School Meals for All from two-thirds of the Massachusetts state legislature— 134 senators and representatives in total. Between the diverse members of the Coalition, one thing brought them all here, together— a deep motivation to end childhood hunger for good. 

Then, we activated our grassroots network, Project Bread’s Action Team. A force of over 4,200 community advocates e-mailing, calling, and posting social messages letting their legislators know how important this is to their families, their neighbors, and their communities. Together, we first saw the success of extending universal free meals in the 2022-2023 school year. 

“We would not be where we are today without the voices and activism of thousands of advocates and organizations, who made it clear that feeding our kids must be a statewide priority. We are grateful to all of our partners across the state and in the legislature who enabled this victory.” - Erin McAleer, President and CEO of Project Bread

Project Bread could not be more thankful for the work our partners across sectors achieved toward bringing our common vision to life. We are extremely grateful to the members of the Feed Kids Coalition, without whom this critical progress would not have been possible!

Improving The Health And Well-Being of a Generation of Students

This policy has proven effective on many levels. First and foremost, it feeds more kids. 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 especially critical because they can account for up to half of a student's daily nutrition and represent one of the healthiest sources of food available to students

This yields additional benefits, including: 

  • Higher-quality school meals

  • Reduced future health costs

  • Increased food security

  • Elimination of stigma and school meal debt

Thank You For Getting Us Here

Project Bread offers deep thanks to the members of the budget conference committee. 

Special thanks to Speaker Ron Mariano, Chairman Michlewitz, and Assistant Majority Leader Alice Peisch; as the House first proposed extending the school meals program in their FY ‘23 budget, then further proposed making the program permanent in their budget proposal this Spring. Their leadership on this issue has been instrumental. We want to express our gratitude to:  

  • Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas for their longstanding as sponsors of this originating legislation, and leadership advocating for feeding children in Massachusetts. 

  • Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Senator Michael Rodrigues for their commitment and leadership in supporting low-income households.

  • Senate Chair Jason Lewis and House Chair Denise Garlick of the Joint Committee on Education for recognizing the importance of school meals to education.

  • The 134 members of the Legislature that cosponsored An Act Relative to Universal School Meals.

  • The over 130 partners that make up the Feed Kids Coalition. 

  • Project Bread’s Action Team for using their voices to advocate for Universal School Meals. You flooded legislators with calls, emails, and tweets— and they clearly heard you!

  • Project Bread’s generous supporters who step up for Massachusetts students and spread awareness of Universal School Meals in their networks and neighborhoods.

Project Bread could not be more thankful for the work our partners across sectors achieved to bring our common vision to life. We are extremely grateful to the members of the Feed Kids Coalition, without whom this milestone would not have been possible. 

To all who have supported the passing of this bill in any way— thank you.


In addition to ensuring access to free school meals, the budget includes the following investments in FY2024:

  • $900,000 for Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline to better support individuals and families seeking food assistance and to connect more eligible households to federal nutrition programs.

  • $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.

  •  A 10% increase to Transitional Aid for Families with Dependent Children and Elderly, Disabled, and Children to ensure fewer families live in deep poverty and are able to purchase everyday necessities starting in April.

  •  $1 million for the Massachusetts Hunger Free Campus Initiatives that provide grants to address food insecurity among college students.

  • $1 million to support food literacy programs in public schools.

Urge Governor Healey to sign the legislation into law

Your Action Is Needed to Secure Permanent School Meals for All

The FY 2024 budget now heads to Governor Healey’s desk. Governor Healey has always supported this program in the past— now, we respectfully ask her to show her continued commitment to food security by maintaining this policy in the budget she signs.

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