National Farm to School Network is excited to announce that we have joined the National Healthy School Meals for All Coalition to call on Congress to make nationwide free school meals for all students a reality.
We know that school meals play an important role in reducing childhood hunger, supporting good nutrition, and ensuring that students are well nourished and ready to get the most out of their school day.
Research links participation in school meals to positive educational and health outcomes for our nation’s children. School meals are just as important to academic success as textbooks, computers, and transportation, and all children should have access to them every school day.
As vital as the school nutrition programs are to ensuring children’s access to healthy, nutritious meals, too many children in need miss out on school meals because of the programs’ current structure. Many struggling families do not meet the eligibility threshold for free meals, which requires a family of four to earn less than $37,000 annually. The current structure with some children being offered free meals or meals at a reduced price, and others paying for their meals, also leads many children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, particularly those in middle and high school, to choose not to participate because of stigma.
Providing free meals to all students, regardless of household income, would reduce stigma and ensure that all students have the nutrition they need during the school day. It would ease the pressure on families’ household food budgets, allowing them to count on a nutritious school breakfast and lunch each school day to help make ends meet. It would reduce administrative work for school staff, allowing them to focus on preparing nutritious and appealing meals instead of processing paperwork. And it would eliminate unpaid school meal fees, helping to ensure that the cafeteria is a positive place for all students and ending the financial burden that school meal debt creates for school districts.
Providing school meals to all students is also critical for advancing racial equity and justice, helping to ensure that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students can access the key nutrition they need to thrive in the classroom and beyond.
“National Farm to School Network represents organizations, professionals, and community members committed to a future where all communities hold power in a racially just food system. We support Healthy School Meals for All to ensure that no child misses the nutrition they need to learn and thrive, or experiences stigma. Our partners in the cafeterias, classrooms, gardens, and farms know that how children eat, grow, and learn about food sets them up for future health and success.”
— Miguel Villarreal, Interim Co-Executive Director
Read our full statement of support here.