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FOOD & 
NUTRITION

Black communities consistently face hunger at higher rates than other communities due to social, economic, and environmental challenges. 

Healthy School Meals For All Coalition

The time for nationwide Healthy School Meals for All is now.

Purpose

The coalition will advocate and build support for nationwide Healthy School Meals for All so that all schools can offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all of their students.

Statement of Support

We know that school meals play an important role in reducing childhood hunger, supporting good nutrition, and ensuring that students are well nourished and ready to get the most out of their school day.

Research links participation in school meals to positive educational and health outcomes for our nation’s children. School meals are just as important to academic success as textbooks, computers, and transportation, and all children should have access to them every school day.

 

As vital as the school nutrition programs are to ensuring children’s access to healthy, nutritious meals, too many children in need miss out on school meals because of the programs’ current structure. Many struggling families do not meet the eligibility threshold for free meals, which requires a family of four to earn less than $37,000 annually.

 

The current structure with some children being offered free meals or meals at a reduced price, and others paying for their meals, also leads many children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, particularly those in middle and high school, to choose not to participate because of stigma.

 

Providing free meals to all students, regardless of household income, would reduce stigma and ensure that all students have the nutrition they need during the school day. It would ease the pressure on families’ household food budgets, allowing them to count on a nutritious school breakfast and lunch each school day to help make ends meet. It would reduce administrative work for school staff, allowing them to focus on preparing nutritious and appealing meals instead of processing paperwork. And it would eliminate unpaid school meal fees, helping to ensure that the cafeteria is a positive place for all students and ending the financial burden that school meal debt creates for school districts.

Providing school meals to all students is also critical for advancing racial equity and justice, helping to ensure that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students can access the key nutrition they need to thrive in the classroom and beyond. Schools were able to offer free school meals to all their students beginning in the spring of 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Free school meals were offered to all students no matter their learning mode—remote, in-person, or hybrid—through the 2021–2022 school year and were ended despite the ongoing need. This trial run showed how beneficial offering free meals to all students is for children, families, and schools.

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“The Center for Black Health & Equity (The Center) believes that access to healthy school meals is a critical step in addressing food insecurity. We are committed to

addressing the social and economic injustices that have marginalized our communities and led to deep health

disparities for our nation’s most vulnerable populations.

Far too many of our children across the United States experience child hunger. Access to school meals will better equip them to reach their full potential and thrive

in and out of the classroom. The Center is dedicated to advocating for equity-centered policies that align with our commitment to end child hunger and fight for food justice.”

— Delmonte Jefferson, Executive Director

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