Six states across the United States have recently passed legislation that grants all students free school meals. This law is set to take effect for this upcoming academic year, which has already started for some or is about to start for others. The free meals apply to breakfast and lunch. Previously, California and Maine already passed laws that grant free meals for all students. The six states that followed behind them with the recent law passing are Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, Michigan, and Massachusetts.
Previously, most states already had a free or reduced lunch program that was offered, but only provided free lunches to people based on the income of the family. Now, free meals are offered to any and all students, regardless of family income.
With eight states having passed this legislation, many more are starting to consider their own free meal laws and there has now begun a push for a national law change.
Many have started to push for congressional action to create free meal plans for all students across the entire country. There was such a program when the nation was under lockdown at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many families around the country took advantage of the program. However, federal aid ended in the spring of 2022 and with the aid ending, most states went back to pre-pandemic policies in which free meals were granted only on income-based needs.
Reverting back to this model hurt many families who had grown accustomed to the free meals. There were many families who did not meet the income requirements for the free and reduced meals program but still needed it. The parameters for the program differed by state, but they tend to be very rigid and strict, edging out many families from qualifying slightly.
There has been congressional support for a nationwide bill creating free meals for the entire state. In May, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota introduced such a bill for the second time. Many political analysts do not have high hopes for the bill to go far in Congress in the current political climate but are hopeful for the path it lays out for the future.
In the meantime, all students in Colorado and seven other states can benefit from free meals, hopefully relieving some stress from all families.