For decades, school meals have been helping to 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.
To address hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed relief measures that enabled the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer school meals to all students free of charge (also known as universal school meals). A strong body of research shows that offering healthy, free school meals to all students is a sound and vital investment that benefits kids, families and schools. Yet this policy is set to expire on June 30, 2022.
Measures that have helped schools serve kids and families in need during the pandemic provide a long-term roadmap for modernizing and improving school meal programs. 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.