Children can’t learn on an empty stomach.

School meals are just as critical to students’ academic success as textbooks or transportation. Yet too many children are missing out because they don’t qualify for free meals.

Did you know?

One in eight households with children struggled to buy enough food for their families in 2021, according to USDA.

School and Afterschool Meals Fuel Student Health and Learning

Each day, millions of students fuel their minds and bodies with the good nutrition provided by the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. There is considerable evidence of the effective role that participation in these programs plays in alleviating food insecurity and poverty, and in providing the nutrients students need for growth, development, learning, and overall health, especially for the nation’s most vulnerable children and adolescents.

The School Breakfast Program provides millions of children a nutritious morning meal each school day. School breakfast is a critical support for struggling families trying to stretch limited resources and provides children a significant portion of the nutrition they need to learn and be healthy.

The National School Lunch Program — the nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program behind SNAP — offers nutritious lunches to millions of children across the United States every school day. The vast majority of schools participate in the program, which provided meals to more than 30 million children on an average day during the 2021 – 2022 school year.

The Afterschool Nutrition Programs include the Afterschool Meal and Snack Programs through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which allows schools, local governments, and private nonprofits to serve a meal and a snack to children after school, on weekends, and during school holidays; and NSLP Snacks, which allows schools to provide a snack when the school day ends. 

Momentum Builds for Healthy School Meals for All

Healthy School Meals for All — offering school breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge to families —helps ensure that all children have the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.

Across the U.S., parents, teachers, students, doctors, nurses, dietitians, policymakers and many others are raising their hand in support of Healthy School Meals for All. California, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, Michigan, and Massachusetts have made free school meals for all a permanent part of the school day. In addition, Nevada and Connecticut have established free school meals for all students during the 2022-2023 school year. Many other states are considering similar legislation.

Healthy school meals for all students would be a game changer. Use the FRAC Action Network to encourage your legislators to endorse the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2023. This bill would ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals in order to learn and thrive year-round as we recover from the pandemic and beyond.

National Healthy School Meals for All Coalition

FRAC is proud to convene the National Healthy School Meals for All Coalition, a diverse group of national anti-hunger, education and child advocacy organizations dedicated to building support for and passing nationwide free healthy school meals for all legislation.

Read the Coalition Statement of Support

Spread the Word: Share FRAC Chat Blogs

As the School Year Ends, One Thing Is Clear: We Need Healthy School Meals for All

For more than two school years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, our country had the opportunity to pilot a nationwide free school meals policy through waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The impact of those free meals was a game changer for students, families, and schools.”

National Coalition Calls on Congress to Pass Healthy School Meals for All Legislation

“Last month marked the official launch of the National Healthy School Meals for All Coalition, a diverse group of 18 national anti-hunger, education, and child advocacy organizations dedicated to building support for and passing permanent free Healthy School Meals for All legislation at the federal level.”

Healthy School Meals for All Can Strengthen a Local and Resilient Food System

“It’s time to reimagine the system that feeds our students — but we have to do it together. From schools to policymakers to parents to farmers, anti-hunger advocates, and more, it takes a community to ensure that wholesome, economically and environmentally sustainable foods fuel our students.”

There Is A Lot to Love About Free Healthy School Meals for All

“Several states have already acted to make free school meals a permanent part of the school day, including California, Maine, and Colorado. Many more states are positioned to follow in their footsteps. To learn more, check out FRAC’s current list of state Healthy School Meals for All bills.”

The Power of Students’ Voices in the Healthy School Meals for All Campaign

This FRAC Chat features an interview with Kristie To, a high school student who has been a leader in California’s Healthy School Meals for All campaign. She provides advice on how youth can effectively use their voice and get involved in campaigns across the country.   

Participation in School Meals Drops as Large Districts Return to Normal Operations

“The 2022–2023 school year marked the end of the Seamless Summer Option waiver, which allowed schools to offer all students school meals at no charge. Most schools had to return to the tiered free, reduced-priced, and paid eligibility system, causing millions of children to lose access to free school meals.”

Loss of Free School Meals for All Students Results in Drop in School Meal Participation, According to FRAC Report

“Many large school districts across the country reported decreased participation in school breakfast and lunch when the nationwide child nutrition waiver that allowed schools to offer school meals to all of their students at no charge ended, according to a report released today by FRAC.”

Healthy School Meals for All Advances Racial Equity

“Participating in school meals improves nutrition and mental health, and reduces obesity rates and diet-related disease. Healthy School Meals for All extends these benefits to all students, which could help reduce longstanding health disparities caused by systemic racism.”

Let’s Celebrate Growing Healthy Schools Month

“Participating in school lunch ensures students in the District receive a nutritious meal to fuel their health and learning. Nationally, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) reports as of school year 2021 more than 1.3 billion school lunches were served.”