WASHINGTON, DC (WTAJ) — Newly introduced legislation would make it easier for schools to serve quality, nutritious meals to students.
The legislation, the Healthy Meals Help Kids Learn Act, was introduced by U.S. Senator John Fetterman, along with Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA). The bill permanently increases the federal reimbursement level for school meals to help address funding challenges, enhance menus and increase access to locally grown food.
“No child should be worried about where their next meal comes from, and no child should EVER be in debt because they can’t afford school lunch. This bill will provide schools the necessary resources to meet our children’s basic needs,” Senator Fetterman said.
The Healthy Meals Help Kids Learn Act permanently increases the federal reimbursement level for all free, reduced-price, and paid-rate school meals by 45 cents for every lunch served and 28 cents for every breakfast served, with a yearly adjustment.
There are 34 million Americans facing food insecurity, including 9 million children. There are over 30 million children in the U.S. who can’t afford their school meals, and the national public school meal debt is a whopping $262 million a year.
In Pennsylvania alone, there are nearly half a million food insecure children who collectively owe nearly $80 million in debt. States have recently been rolling out universal free school meals programs to tackle this issue and seen real results. Just this summer, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a budget that created a new universal free breakfast program.
Research shows that students who eat regular meals at school tend to eat an overall healthier diet and do better at school.