Education: Free Lunch for Every Schoolkid
SNA’s research and advocacy work aims to bring universal free breakfast and lunch to schoolchildren, removing social stigma from free meals and boosting student nutrition.
Education • School Nutrition Association
There’s that old saying: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well, the School Nutrition Association would like to consign that one to the cafeteria trash bin.
“Kids who eat a school lunch perform better academically, miss school less often, and are better behaved,” says SNA CEO Patricia Montague, CAE.
About 50 million children attend K-12 public schools, and around 30 million of them eat school lunches. A significant portion of school lunch eaters receive free or reduced-price meals. And while these meals allow children to avoid malnourishment, the current system also causes social problems.
“It creates a divide between the haves and have-nots that shouldn’t be happening,” Montague says. “There’s a stigma now because the kids know who gets a free lunch and breakfast. We are trying to reduce that.”
SNA wants every child, regardless of income, to receive a free school breakfast and lunch—a policy that will remove the stigma and provide healthy food to all. “School lunches are healthier than what some bag lunches are,” Montague says. “School lunches have to meet the stringent nutrition requirements of the meal program.”
To help make free school meals a reality, SNA is advocating with legislators and conducting research on the costs and benefits of universal free lunch.
In a future with free meals for all schoolchildren, SNA sees healthier and more equitable schools. “You’ll see more academic success, less absenteeism in school, and better behavior among all students,” Montague says.
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