In celebration of Project Bread’s 53rd Annual Walk for Hunger event, Senator Sal DiDomenico participated in a live panel discussion on his Universal School Meals legislation. Each year, Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger gathers people, organizations, and businesses together as a community to make the statement that hunger in Massachusetts is unacceptable. In addition to raising funds to support Project Bread’s anti-hunger work, this year’s Walk for Hunger helped to raise awareness on the new Feed Kids Campaign, an initiative led by Project Bread in support of SD519/HD1161, An Act relative to universal school meals, filed by Senator DiDomenico and Representative Andy Vargas.
An Act relative to universal school meals would allow every student who wants or needs a school breakfast or lunch to receive it—at no cost to their family and with no requirement to sign up or provide income or other information. Just as no student is required to pay fees at public schools when they enter the classroom, there would be no financial barrier in the school cafeteria.
“It was a pleasure to joining Jen Lemmerman of Project Bread and my House partner Representative Vargas in this fantastic panel discussion on our Universal School Meals bill. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, too many in our Commonwealth were struggling to meet their most basic needs. Today, the COVID crisis has shed a stark light on the state of hunger in Massachusetts, especially for kids, ” said DiDomenico. “We have a moral responsibility to take immediate action to end childhood hunger in Massachusetts, and we simply cannot do so without providing universal school meals to every child, free of charge. I am so grateful for all that Project Bread does to fight hunger here in Massachusetts, and I am very proud to partner with them once again on this critical legislation.”
Right now, 1 in 5 Massachusetts families with kids is hungry, and 27 percent of children experiencing food insecurity in Massachusetts are not eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. However, as a result of flexibilities granted in response to the pandemic, every student in Massachusetts currently has access to free school meals. The barrier presented by cost and paperwork was temporarily removed at the federal level because this crisis put a spotlight on the need to ensure the right to the most basic of necessities—food—for all kids. Consequently, thousands more Massachusetts children and teens have been able to get free breakfast and lunch at hundreds of meal sites across the Commonwealth.
Despite this important step forward, without state-level legislation in place, there is a possibility that barriers to school meals will return once the waivers expire post-pandemic. To keep school meals accessible for all students, Senator DiDomenico, Representative Vargas, and the Feed Kids Coalition joined forces seeking a bold solution to end childhood hunger by ensuring that every student receives the nutrition they need while they are in school.
This is the first legislative session this bill has been filed. More information about the bill and the Feed Kids Campaign can be found at the FeedKidsMa.org.