Stuff that matters

Maine will join California and make school meals free for all students.

For the last year, the federal government has stepped in to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students, regardless of income eligibility requirements, and plans to continue that program through 2021-22.

In Maine’s updated budget approved last month, the state has announced plans to continue providing free meals for all students in 2022-23 and beyond.

As part of the budget the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee has created a designated fund at the Department of Education called the Meals for Students Fund, which will help pay the difference between the federal reimbursements the state gets for free meals and the cost of school meals for all.

This is a huge step in the right direction,” said Anna Korsen, director of advocacy for Full Plates Full Potential, a nonprofit working to end childhood hunger in Maine.

“I think it shows how many families are living right on that edge of really needing help,” she said. “Having a school meal available – breakfast and lunch every day – for your kids can really help as far as food and financial security.”

Dozens of proponents of the new bill testified this past spring, saying free meals for all will reduce the stigma that free meals are only for low-income students and prevent school districts from racking up debt from students who don’t pay their lunch bills.