Legislation that would make school meals free for all Illinois students has passed both the House and Senate, paving the way for the bill’s likely passage.
The “Healthy School Meals for All” legislation would provide state aid to Illinois schools to improve their provision of healthy meals, while maximizing the use of an existing federal program.
Advocates say expanding free meals to all students both fights hunger and helps reduce the stigma students often face when they qualify for free or reduced lunch programs.
Minnesota, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and California have all passed similar legislation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure free school meals for all students.
According to lawmakers, the bill is expected to cost $115 million in the first year, with estimated annual costs of $194 million in future years, depending on how many schools sign up.