Healthy School Meals

Providing students with healthy meals at school is a vital part of food security for children and families.

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An avoidable hunger crisis still looms for millions of children

Since early 2020, child nutrition waivers provided in response to the pandemic have made all public school students eligible for free meals. The waivers were to expire June 30, but Congress last week extended this waiver through summer, averting the most dire consequences. As leaders of two nonprofit organizations committed to healthy school meals as integral to children’s learning and overall well-being, RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser and Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, laud this 11th-hour legislative action but caution that this intervention does not solve the long-standing gaps in our nation's schools. This extension is a first step, they write, but must not be a final one.  

School meals help prevent hunger and provide nutrients that kids need to learn and thrive. These meals are essential to tens of millions of children and families, especially those living furthest from economic opportunity.

Since early 2020, all students have been eligible for free breakfast and lunch at school because of child nutrition waivers provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Offering healthy school meals to all students for free helps reduce food insecurity, improve children’s diets, and boost their academic performance. But this policy will change starting in the 2022-23 school year and families will once again have to apply for free or reduced-price meals. This means many children in need will miss out and some will be forced again to stand in a different line or receive a different meal from their peers, which creates stigma and shame.

Measures that have helped schools serve kids and families in need during the pandemic provide a roadmap for improving school meal programs and addressing systemic inequities in our nation’s nutrition policy. Ensuring that all students have access to healthy school meals at no cost is a critical strategy for helping children grow up healthy, lifting families out of poverty and advancing health equity.

Healthy School Meals for All

School meals are a lifeline for millions of children, helping to prevent hunger and ensuring families have enough to eat, especially among those living furthest from economic opportunity.

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Featured Blog PostS

Why We Need Healthy School Meals for All

Healthy School Meals for All offers students the stability they need as they continue adapting to pandemic-driven change amidst ongoing challenges. Now is not the time to let this policy expire.

To Help Recover From COVID-19, We Need Universal Free School Meals

For tens of millions of children, school isn’t just a place to learn, but a place where they can depend on receiving healthy meals.

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A Focus on Healthy Children

Programs to ensure that all families have the resources they need to foster healthy development from their child’s earliest years.

The Six-Ingredient Recipe for Universal School Meals: Lessons from California

During the summer of 2021, California became the first state in the country to pass a state budget that includes universal (free) school meals for all 6 million of its public school students. Experts share the six key ingredients that helped them achieve this win.

Read more on stateofchildhoodobesity.org

Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

Series//Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program

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A student looks at fruit in a school cafeteria.
  1. A student looks at fruit in a school cafeteria.

    Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

    This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.
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  3. Students at Anne Frank Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pa., describe some of their favorite healthy snacks and share their thoughts about why eating healthy is important.
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Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.
This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.

Creating Healthier Schools Across the Country

This video series highlights how schools participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program are transforming to provide healthier meals and snacks for their students.