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Congress could make school lunch free for all kids: How would it work?

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  • Staff Report 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced the Universal School Meals Program Act, a bill set to provide free meals for over 726,000 schoolchildren in New York. The legislation, unveiled during a video press conference, seeks to offer free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to all schoolchildren, regardless of income. It also aims to expand free meal access during the summer and eliminate existing school meal debt.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Addressing the ongoing issue of food insecurity in New York, Sen. Gillibrand noted that one in six children in the state faces hunger. The act would eradicate burdensome application paperwork, increase reimbursement rates for schools participating in food and nutrition programs, and prevent discrimination against children enrolled in the free meal program. It would also enhance summer food service and electronic benefit transfer (EBT) programs by making all children eligible for these services, irrespective of income.

The Food Research and Action Center supports the initiative, noting the multiple benefits associated with free school meals, including improved attendance, better academic performance, fewer behavioral incidents, and less financial stress on families. The Act would also reduce administrative work for schools, as they would no longer need to handle unpaid meal fees.