Correction: The earlier version of the report included an error, which impacted the lunch participation data and the breakfast to lunch ratios. The updated version includes the corrections and the updated announcement is below. 

Media Contact:

Jordan Baker                                                                       jbaker@frac.org202-640-1118

WASHINGTON, February 20, 2024Offering school meals to all students at no charge increased lunch participation in five states and boosted breakfast participation in four states during the 2022–2023 school year, according to a report released today by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

FRAC’s The State of Healthy School Meals for All: California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Vermont Lead the Way report features state-by-state participation data for September 2022 to May 2023, the first school year of these states’ Healthy School Meals for All policies.

“During the pandemic, schools were able to offer meals to all students at no charge, but when that ended in the 2022– 2023 school year, many children lost access to the nutritious school meals they need to fuel their health and learning,” said Luis Guardia, president of FRAC. “Fortunately, these five states understand the value of school meals and enacted Healthy School Meals for All policies.”  

Key report findings:  

  • School lunch participation increased in all five states by a total of 233,656 students or 6 percent, compared to pre-pandemic operations.  
  • Participation in the School Breakfast Program saw modest growth of 129,264 more students across four of the five states — California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont — compared to pre-pandemic operations.  
  • The response to Healthy School Meals for All policies has been positive, with state child nutrition agencies noting many benefits to providing school meals at no cost to all families, and public opinion polling showing broad support.   

At the onset of the pandemic, Congress gave the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide child nutrition waivers to allow School Nutrition Programs to continue feeding children while schools were shuttered. The waivers expired in June 2022, but they offered a trial run for Healthy School Meals for All. While most states reverted to pre-pandemic operations, some forged a different path by enacting policies to offer school meals to all students at no charge.

In addition to the five states featured in the report, four states — Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, and New Mexico — have passed Healthy School Meals for All policies that started with the 2023–2024 school year.

“Voters and policymakers in these states all agreed that our children’s health and education were top priorities. Now it’s time for Congress to act,” added Guardia. “Our lawmakers must do everything in their power to allow schools to implement Healthy School Meals for All. The Universal School Meals Program Act would allow all schools to offer meals to their students at no charge, and the School Meals Expansion Act, the No Hungry Kids in School Act, and the Expanding Access to School Meals Act would allow more high-need schools to offer meals to all their students at no charge. Hungry children can’t wait.”

In the meantime, FRAC recommends states pass Healthy School Meals for All policies that ensure the children in their state have access to nutritious food to help them succeed at school. States can learn how to implement these policies by visiting 

Read the full report. 


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 and follow us on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.