A new law will require public schools in Maine to provide free meals to all students.
As per News Center Maine, funding in Maine’s updated budget bill, that was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills, will provide for free school meals for all public school students starting in 2022-2023.
School lunches are served in many countries around the world. But far from everyone has this privilege, and far too many students are hungry when they are in school.
School meals make the students healthier. Without access to nutritious meals it’s hard for them to concentrate and get the best out of their education.
Advocates on the local and national levels say school meals are typically the most nutritious that students eat every day. And good nutrition is vital to a good education.
“The reality is when you’re hungry, when you have those kinds of things going through your head — it doesn’t allow you to concentrate. It doesn’t allow you to focus”, said Justin Strasburger, the executive director of Full Plates Full Potential (a nonprofit that authored the original bill).
Regardless of the family’s income
Maine has been working with on food issue for a long time and is now one of two leaders nationwide that will offer free meals to all students in public schools, thanks to the updated budget bill signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills at the end of June.
The new law, that will start in the 2022-2023 school year, means that Maine public schools will be required to provide school meals to all students for free, regardless of family income.
Maine is doing this to address the hunger issue in the state, since some families that weren’t traditionally eligible for free or reduced-price school meals may still need help, especially because of tough economic struggles during the pandemic.
The reason why this new law will not effect until next year is because of measures that have already been taken. In 2020, during the pandemic, the federal government created a waiver that allowed all students to get school meals at no cost nationwide. That waiver has been extended through the 2021-2022 school year, according to News Center Maine.
After California, Maine is the second state in the country to pass a law like this. According to Justin Strasburger, the new law could impact all 160,000 students in the state.
The budget bill provides $10 million for initiative, but Strasburger says the fiscal note came to $34 million, so he assumes advocates will have to ask for more money in next year’s budget.
“Maine children should be able to focus on learning math and playing with their friends, not an empty stomach. By providing free, nutritious school meals, no questions asked, we can ensure Maine kids can focus on being kids,” the bill’s primary sponsor Senate President Troy Jackson said in a statement and continued:
“No child should have to go to school hungry, especially not in this state. Between our coastal waters and acres of farmland, we can feed our kids, support our farmers and grow our economy. I hope other states will follow our lead.”
Now, the ultimate goal is to ensure that no one will need to fill out a school meal application in Maine. But Strassburger says the state is not really there yet, that’s why it’s important that anyone planning on taking part of the free school meal program fills out an application online, in a way to demonstrate the need in the state.
It’s so heartbreaking that there are so many students around the nation who can’t concentrate in school because they are hungry. This new law is great for all the students in Maine.
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