October 4, 2023

School meals have long served as our nation’s first line of defense against childhood hunger. We know that school meals contribute to better academic performance, attendance, and nutrition. However, after the loss of COVID-19 pandemic support that allowed meals to be served for free to all students, many families and school systems are struggling to readjust to the tiered payment system that has historically excluded too many children in need. Last school year (2022–2023) was the first academic year after the pandemic, where schools again had to collect forms and payments for school meals.    

This year, in the absence of state funding, many districts have decided to take advantage of an existing federal program and are opting into serving Healthy School Meals for All at no cost to all of their students through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).   

In prior years, Baltimore City, Somerset, Dorchester, and Wicomico Counties have used community eligibility to serve meals at no cost districtwide, while districts such as Prince George’s County, Cecil, Howard, Washington Counties, and others have been able to use this provision on groups of eligible schools. This school year, Baltimore County and Caroline County join the growing list of districts providing districtwide free meals through CEP, bringing us one step closer to the goal of statewide Healthy School Meals for All.   

While school districts are doing their best to capitalize on existing programs like CEP, now is a critical time for advocates and stakeholders to come together for a better future for students by continuing to advocate for Healthy School Meals for All in Maryland.   

How to Get Involved  

Some of the ways to support this cause are:  

Maryland Hunger Solutions will continue to advocate for Healthy School Meals for All. Stay connected with us at mdhungersolutions.org.