State Capitol

Plan for Permanent Free School Meals Moves Forward

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An effort is moving forward to make sure kids don’t go hungry.

Lawmakers are considering making school meals free to all students for good. Right now, the program is set to run out at the end of the school year.

“I think it’s a good idea. I think all kids should eat for free,” said Key Barnett of Hartford.

Barnett, a mom of three, is in favor of a plan that would permanently expand free school meals for all K-12 students in the state.

“You never know what some kids have going on at home. Some kids don’t eat as much as other kids,” Barnett said.

On Tuesday, the legislature’s Committee on Children voted to advance Senate Bill 929 – which calls for the expanded food program.

“In order to have a healthy education system, we need healthy children and children who are well fed,” said Sen. Saud Anwar (D – South Windsor).

Earlier this month, Governor Ned Lamont signed off on a measure that continues free meals for a half-million kids, which started during the pandemic. But it’s only for the remainder of this school year.

“What has happened during the pandemic is that we recognize how that support was helping the children perform better in some respects. But we also recognize that when it went away, it's having an impact on all of our districts,” Anwar said.

Some raised concerns about the potential cost, which we’re told could run in the ballpark of $90 million per year.

And one lawmaker said she had heard from community members who were not in support.

“There are many families that can afford to pay for their children’s lunch and they don’t feel the taxpayers of Connecticut should have to cover the food for their children,” said Sen. Lisa Seminara (R – Avon).

According to research from Feeding America, about 110,000 children in Connecticut are considered food insecure and of those, 35% do not qualify for federal nutrition programs.

And potentially even some who do qualify for help are not receiving it.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea to expand free lunch for all kids. There are a lot of kids in this town whose parents are too proud to apply for the free and reduced lunch,” said Kelly Kenney of Bloomfield.

With Tuesday’s vote, the bill is set to head to the Appropriations Committee. That will focus on the funding.

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