December 6, 2021

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

School Nutrition Association calls for universal free meals for students ‘as an integral part of education’

The move would support academic achievement, foster healthy eating habits, ensure access to healthy meals at a time when many households are struggling financially due to the pandemic’s economic fallout, and ease administrative burdens so that school nutrition staff can focus on serving students, SNA argues in its recently published 2021 Position Paper​.

The call for universal free meals comes after the USDA announced in October that it would allow public schools to leverage the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option to offer free meals to all children through the current academic year to alleviate increased food insecurity caused by the devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic on the economy.

Early in the pandemic, USDA offered waivers for schools to feed children through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option at no charge to the families, but it was unclear until the fall if the government would have sufficient funds to cover the costs through the current academic year.

Prior to the waivers extending free meals to all students, only students from homes with incomes below 130% of the poverty line were eligible for free school meals – a restriction that complicated the free meal application process for administrators and which could stigmatize children recipients.

While logistically difficult to implement during the pandemic, the free meal program has provided much-needed nutritional stability to an influx of students who might otherwise go hungry. And while vaccines currently being distributed across America portend an end to the pandemic may be in sight, the economic destruction likely will linger longer – underscoring the need for extending the universal free meal program.

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