Senator Sal DiDomenico joined forces with the anti-hunger organization Project Bread in sponsoring new legislation to provide free school meals to all children in the Commonwealth. SD519/HD1161, An Act relative to universal school meals, would allow every student who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch to receive it—at no cost to their family and with no requirement to sign up or provide income or other information. Just as no student is required to pay fees at public schools when they enter the classroom, there would be no financial barrier in the school cafeteria.
Senator DiDomenico partnered with State Representative Andy Vargas, his former co-sponsor of Breakfast After the Bell legislation, in filing this legislation to provide universal school meals. Last week, the legislative duo joined with Project Bread and the Feed Kids Campaign– a state-level legislative campaign comprised of the most influential and dedicated anti-hunger partners in the state– to officially launch the campaign, announce their newly filed bill, and emphasize the need for this critical legislation.
Right now, 1 in 5 Massachusetts families with kids is hungry, and 27 percent of children experiencing food insecurity in Massachusetts are not eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. However, as a result of flexibilities granted in response to the pandemic, every student in Massachusetts currently has access to free school meals. The barrier presented by cost and paperwork was temporarily removed at the federal level because this crisis put a spotlight on the need to ensure the right to the most basic of necessities—food—for all kids. Consequently, for the past 10 months, thousands more Massachusetts children and teens have been able to get free breakfast and lunch at hundreds of meal sites across the Commonwealth.
Despite this important step forward, without state-level legislation in place, there is a possibility that barriers to school meals will return once the waivers expire post-pandemic. To keep school meals accessible for all students, Senator DiDomenico, Representative Vargas, and the Feed Kids Coalition joined forces seeking a bold solution to end childhood hunger by ensuring that every student receives the nutrition they need while they are in school.
This is the first legislative session this bill has been filed.