The Connecticut House and Senate yesterday unanimously passed legislation to extend free school meals to all students through the end of this school year. Legislators voted to direct $60 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to k-12 schools’ breakfast and lunch programs, and Governor Lamont will soon sign the bill.
CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancey, who testified on a bill this week that would ensure free school meals beyond this school year said, “Thank you to legislators for supporting this crucial measure that will prevent many students from going hungry. As our members witness every day, even in the most affluent school districts, children routinely go hungry while in school.”
The current school lunch program reaches many students in need but not all. Under federal guidelines, only families making up to $36,075 annually, for a family of four, qualify for free school meals. Families of four making up to $51,338 qualify for reduced-price meals. In Connecticut, with its high cost of living, many families making salaries above those income guidelines are still struggling to make ends meet.
And not all children who do qualify end up receiving free meals.
“Many children who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches refrain from participating to avoid stigmas associated with being identified as low-income,” DeLancey said. “Even though teachers often reach into their pockets to buy meals for students, many others go silently hungry from class to class. Expanding the school meal program to all students prevents children in school from going hungry.”
She added, “Legislators’ vote yesterday was an important step toward alleviating childhood hunger. We urge legislators to take the next step and extend free school meals to all children for future school years.”