October 10, 2023
This week (October 9–13, 2023) is National School Lunch Week. Our partners at the School Nutrition Association are celebrating with the theme “Level Up with School Lunch”, and school nutrition staff and students across the country will be celebrating in cafeterias with special events, menus, and decorations.
The School Nutrition Programs are indeed something to celebrate. School breakfast and lunch are fundamental to the success of students and teens at school — reducing child hunger, improving student behavior, supporting academic achievement, and helping to build a sense of community. School breakfast and lunch also help to reduce food costs for families.
At the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), we know the critical role that school nutrition staff play in schools, not just this week but year-round. School nutrition directors and staff wear many hats, from menu development to serving meals, to creating a welcoming environment for students and staff, and much more. Most importantly, their work helps to ensure that students are hunger-free and ready to get the most out of their school day. And many school nutrition directors work hard to make sure as many students as possible can access free school meals, regardless of their household income.
The number of states with Healthy School Meals for All policies continues to grow. Eight states to date have passed Healthy School Meals for All (HSMFA) policies so that all students can eat a free breakfast and lunch at school and Nevada has extended it through the 2023-2024 school year. Other states are using the Community Eligibility Provision to provide free school meals to as many students as possible, and in schools across the country, school nutrition staff are utilizing breakfast in the classroom, grab and go meals, and other innovative service models.
In its resolution creating National School Lunch Week over 60 years ago, Congress called on all Americans to observe the week with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.” We at FRAC can think of no activity more appropriate than Congress permanently ensuring that every child has access to free school meals. Free healthy school meals are critical for ensuring that all children are getting the most out of our country’s educational investments. We have the resources to accomplish the goal of making Healthy School Meals for All a reality nationwide, and HSMFA has the support of the majority of voters. All that is lacking is the political will.
National School Lunch Week provides a time each year to call attention to the powerful role that school meals play for students, families, and schools. This year, let’s tell our policymakers what a game changer nationwide free school meals for all would be for students, families, and schools.