school lunch funding
Take out food Lunch box with Sandwiches and vegetables, bottle of water and school supplies copy space

School lunches are a source of nutritionally balanced meals for millions of U.S. schoolchildren. While many schools require children to pay for lunches, states—with support from the federal government—have subsidized the costs of lunches for children in families experiencing low incomes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools offered free lunches for all students, regardless of their ability to pay, because of increased federal funding through the Universal Free Lunch Program, launched in 2020. Congress has not renewed the program, causing many states and schools to debate whether to pay for free meals themselves or to revert to charging children for their school lunches. Several states have decided to pay for students’ lunches at no cost to the children.


When children return to school in California, they will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch regardless of their ability to pay. California will pay for all breakfast and lunches across all the state’s public and charter schools due to state legislative support for funding California’s Universal Meal Program. California has been the first state to announce free school breakfasts and lunches statewide for the 2022–2023 school year.


Children in Maine will be eligible to receive free school lunches for the 2022–2023 school year. Last year, lawmakers voted to make free school lunches permanent across the state’s public and private schools at an estimated cost of $34 million per year.


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will pay for all school meals for all students regardless of their ability to pay for the upcoming school year. Earlier this summer, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a one-time investment of $110 million approved by the General Court to support free school meals for grades K–12 regardless of income level.


Vermont will offer children free school lunches regardless of their ability to pay under recent legislation. On May 31, 2022, Governor Phil Scott signed SB100 into law, requiring every state school to provide children free lunches with reimbursement from the state. Under Section 5 of SB100, Vermont will appropriate $29 million from the Education Fund to the Agency of Education for the 2022–2023 school year, which will pay for free school meals for the new school year.

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