Sep 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Millions more students eligible for free school meals

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Millions of more students will gain access to free breakfast and lunch at school, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announced Tuesday.

Driving the news: The expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) will make some 3,000 additional school districts serving more than 5 million students eligible for meals at no cost.

What they're saying: "Increasing access to free, healthy school breakfast and lunch will decrease childhood hunger, improve child health and student readiness, and put our nation on the path to better nutrition and wellness," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

  • Stacy Dean, USDA deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, said in a statement that while "there is still more work ahead to ensure every K-12 student in the nation can access healthy school meals at no cost, this is a significant step on the pathway towards that goal."

Meanwhile, Eight states – California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont – have passed laws to make meals free for all students.

Flashback: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government expanded a program in March 2020 that covered the cost of breakfast and lunch for low-income students to include all pupils.

  • The expanded benefits expired in June 2022.

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