NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Project Bread, the state’s leading anti-hunger organization, hosted lawmakers and school officials at JFK Middle School on Tuesday.
Massachusetts is one of only five states still providing free meals to students since the start of a national program during the pandemic. However, it is about to expire, and Projektbrød is now calling for free school meals to be permanent.
Project Bread connects people and communities in Massachusetts to reliable sources of food while advocating for policies that make food more accessible. Their mission Tuesday was to show how their work with JFK Middle School is an example of why free school meals must be permanent going forward.
“Right now, the Legislature is debating the next fiscal year’s budget, and the House of Representatives chose not only to extend it another year for their proposal, but to actually make it permanent going forward,” said Jennifer Lemmerman, VP of Public Policy at Project Bread.
Their support is behind the School Meals for All legislation, which would allow any student who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch to receive it at no cost to their family and without the requirement to register or provide income or other information. Representatives from both Project Bread and JFK Middle School told 22News that continuing free school meals could make a world of difference for some students.
“We know that students get up to 50 percent of their daily nutrients and calories from what they eat at school and sometimes more, and the majority of school-dependent students come from low-income backgrounds,” said Sam Icklan, Director of Community Nutrition Services at Project Bread
“If it’s not free, then you have kids who don’t eat and don’t sign out, and some caregivers don’t fill out the appropriate forms, and then you have kids who come to school, and there’s an unidentified student who, regardless the reason, don’t have the funds to pay for lunch and then they’re not able to focus in school,” said JFK Middle School Principal Lauren Marien.
If universal school meals are not made permanent through the state legislature, 400,000 students will lose access to free school meals.