Every Child Deserves Nutritious School Meals Free of Charge

Every Child Deserves Nutritious School Meals Free of Charge

July 15, 2022
Signatures: 16,702Next Goal: 25,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Sean McBride

To President Biden and the U.S. Congress,

Healthy, nutritious, delicious school meals combat hunger and obesity and are as important as things like computers, textbooks, school buses and athletic equipment, and should be provided to every student free of charge as part of the school day. 

Hunger and obesity in the U.S. are particularly acute among school age children, as twelve million of them do not get enough to eat, and nearly 20% suffer from obesity.  The COVID-19 Pandemic and related economic challenges have only made things worse.

The federal government’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) are instrumental in combating malnutrition and obesity among American children, providing children in kindergarten through 12th grade with 44 million delicious, healthy and nutritious meals each and every school day.  

However, the number of meals and children served through school nutrition programs tells only part of the story.  In recent years, school meals have not only become more nutritious, but data also shows they are now the healthiest food most children consume.  

A study conducted by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University showed school meals ranked higher in nutrition than meals prepared at home or those consumed at restaurants, food trucks, and entertainment venues, and concluded, “Schools are now the single healthiest place Americans are eating.”

Not only do healthy and nutritious school meals combat hunger and obesity they support improved academic achievement, as well as improved attendance and behavior at school.

But school nutrition programs have been hit hard during the Pandemic. Crippling labor shortages, paralyzing supply chain disruption, soaring food costs and mental health/stigma challenges facing participating students are just a few of the many problems they are coping with.

Therefore, the best and only solution to secure safe, healthy and affordable school meals for every school student in the United States is for Congress to pass legislation that will provide them for all students free of charge – permanently.

We believe the rationale for “Healthy School Meals for All” is simple:

·      School meals stand apart as the only major part of public education that is not funded by state and federal education funds.  Transportation is provided free of charge. Textbooks are provided free of charge.  Physical education and athletic gear are provided free of charge.  We need to fully fund school meals for every child. 

·      “Pay as you are able” school nutrition programs can and do stigmatize children. Those who are provided free meals and reduced-price meals are “noticed” and can suffer bullying and mental health issues as a result. Free meals for all students will remove the inequality and the stigmatization that springs from stratified school nutrition programs. 

·      Healthy school meals for all children free of charge will eliminate the significant problem of unpaid school meal debt.  75% of schools report annual student meal debt and 43% report that debt is increasing annually. Every school district must take money from the general education fund to pay for unpaid meal debt.  That means fewer teachers, fewer books, fewer buildings, more deferred maintenance and unfunded programs. 

·      Free school meals for all students will remove the nutritional inequalities that exist and cut across socio-economic and racial boundaries. It will level the playing field.

·      The application process that determines whether a child pays full price, reduced price or gets free meals at school is fatally flawed.  Many families that are placed into the full or reduced-price category cannot or do not provide the funds for their children to eat at school, leading to increased hunger or increased school meal debt that must be repaid via general education funds. 

·      The ability of schools to consistently serve healthy school meals daily is now jeopardized for the foreseeable future due to a number of negative factors, including runaway food inflation, ongoing labor shortages, and rampant supply chain disruptions.  Moving to a “healthy meals for all students free of charge” format will significantly mitigate these challenges by injecting more funds into the system, creating a better economy of scale for purchasing ingredients and providing better pay for workers. 

·      Hunger and obesity don’t have a Zip Code and can’t be defined by an application. The right thing to do, the compassionate thing to do, is to feed every child every day for free so they are ready to learn. 

·      More than simply calories, school meals are in and of themselves an educational tool. Students who learn to consume and enjoy nutrient dense foods in the right proportions establish healthy dietary patterns for life. School meals expose children to delicious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and those with less saturated fat and sodium. 

By moving to a completely free school meals model, we are investing in our children, creating an equitable system that benefits every child regardless of race or socio-economic status. It is the moral thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is the courageous thing to do.  We urge the Biden Administration and Congress to take the necessary steps to provide healthy school meals to all students free of charge starting with the 2022-23 school year. 

This petition is a project of the School Nutrition Association. Visit the SNA Web site at www.schoolnutrition.org 


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Signatures: 16,702Next Goal: 25,000
Support now