Statement attributable to Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, September 15, 2022 — Together with Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5), Katie Porter (D-CA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), and 48 House members, FRAC urges their Congressional counterparts to extend free school meals to all students for the current academic year. FRAC is pleased that lawmakers are responding to requests for an extension of free school meals from parents, caregivers, schools, and anti-hunger organizations. By extending free school meals, all children, regardless of family income, will have access to the food they need to thrive.
For the last two years, schools have been able to provide school meals at no charge to all students due to the child nutrition waivers issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This helped reduce child hunger by increasing school meal participation, and supported school nutrition operations.
The waiver that allowed school nutrition programs to keep feeding children in the face of numerous challenges created by the pandemic. Recent data from USDA show that if not for free school meals, the alarming spikes in childhood hunger during the pandemic would have been even worse.
Unfortunately, that waiver expired on June 30, leaving many families to wonder how their children would get enough nutrition to fuel their health and learning. Household budgets are still being squeezed, and families need to be able to count on school breakfast and lunch to provide nutritious meals for their children.
Yet too many children are still missing out because they aren’t eligible for free or reduced-price meals, even though their families continue to struggle. Some children are eligible, but stigma keeps them from participating. As schools work to overcome the educational and health impacts of the pandemic, now is not the time to end this waiver.
School meals are proven to help reduce child hunger and improve students’ health, academic achievement, attendance, and behavior. Studies also show children receive their healthiest meals at school, proving that school meals are one of the federal government’s most powerful tools for delivering good nutrition to children.
Congress must act now and prioritize the well-being of our nation’s children.
FRAC calls on the House of Representatives to pass a Continuing Resolution that will extend free school meals during the 2022–2023 school year.
Hungry children can’t wait.
The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.