School meals for all Connecticut students resume today

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School lunch in Hawaii(Source: Hawaii News Now)
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 10:49 AM EST
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - All Connecticut students kindergarten through 12th grade have access to school meals as of Wednesday.

It was made possible by emergency legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ned Lamont last month, according to the group School Meals 4 All CT. The legislation provides $60 million in funding through the end of the current school year.

School meals for all Connecticut students had been funded by federal COVID dollars until late 2022 when that funding ran out. Schools resumed the state’s meal-funding program. Since then, concerned that too many students were going hungry, School Meals 4 All CT, a coalition of nearly two dozen food, hunger, school and health nonprofits, and students advocated for its return.

“Feeding every school kid is the best way to make sure they have what they need to learn,” said Lucy Nolan, policy director for End Hunger CT! “No-cost school meals don’t just provide nutritional value, but it eliminates the stigma of subsidies and the financial stress on families, and it takes away an administrative burden from schools.”

The state’s existing income requirements for no-cost and reduced meals are outdated, the coalition said, which left many students unable to qualify and without the money to buy meals. Districts across the state reported that more than 40 percent of students stopped getting meals at school and school debt skyrocketed once the program ended.

While the coalition said it continues to focus on long term funding to continue no-cost meals in the coming school years, securing funding for the current year was an enormous success.

“We have been particularly grateful for the advocacy of students across the state, who have organized support at their schools, come to the Capitol to testify before legislative committees, and sent notes and letters urging policymakers to fund school meals,” Nolan said. “Today we celebrate with students; tomorrow we get back to work on a permanent solution.”

On Tuesday, the legislature’s Committee on Children voted to support SB929, An Act Expanding School Meal Programs to Provide Free School Meals to All Children. The bill has advanced to the Appropriations Committee.