What are healthy school meals for all?
Healthy school meals for all allow all enrolled children in a school that operates the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program to receive free breakfast and free lunch, regardless of their family’s income. Healthy school meals for all negate the need for families to apply or schools to verify eligibility for the programs and give flexibility to school nutrition programs so that they can keep feeding kids no matter what the new school day structure looks like.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 30 million school children relied on school meals. Now, millions of families find themselves in financial trouble that many have never experienced before. In May 2020, more than 20 percent of parents living with children under 19 reported that their households experienced food insecurity during the prior 30 days. This crisis is even more pressing for Black and Hispanic families with children, who reported food insecurity rates twice that of white households with children. Nearly four in 10 Black and Hispanic households with children reported not having enough to eat.
For many students, school meals may be the only nutritious meals they receive that day. School meals provide good nutrition for children. Research shows that the school meal nutrition standards established in 2012 decreased the risk of childhood obesity among children in poverty by half over five years.
In July 2020, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott introduced the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act (H.R. 7887). Under the act, all students would temporarily be made eligible for free school meals during the 2020-2021 school year through the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
CSPI, as well as several other major organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, School Nutrition Association, National PTA, and many others, support this legislation. Congress must pass the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act as part of the next COVID relief package.
Congress is taking up Child Nutrition Reauthorization--legislation that will impact 30 million children who receive breakfast and lunch from school. We must ensure school meals remain healthy and that all children can receive them for free.
Vice chair, AAP Council on Community Pediatrics
Director, Culinary and Wellness Service, Minneapolis Public Schools
Assistant Professor of Social Work