OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Schools Chief wants to make sure none of the 1.1 million K-12 students go hungry in school.
On Thursday, Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced the proposal to provide free school meals to all students as part of their basic education.
Federal waivers in the first two years of the pandemic allowed students to eat for free, but starting this school year the waivers will end and 330,000 students and their families will have to pay or request free or reduced-price meals .
Eligibility is determined by federal requirements.
“Under current requirements, a family of four with a household income of $51,338 per year would pay approximately $2,330 per year for their children to have a healthy breakfast and lunch at school,” a statement read. release from the superintendent’s office.
Under Reykdal’s proposal, all students would eat for free, regardless of family income.
“When students are hungry, their ability to learn and engage in school is affected,” Reykdal said.. “Quality food is a key element of student success and access to meals is an important element of school attendance. We need to stop expecting families to foot the bill for the resources and supports that are an integral part of the school day. »
Currently, as part of the federal government’s expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision – a program that provides free meals to all students in schools with a high percentage of students living in poverty – more than half of students in the state will be in a school offering free meals.
Reykdal’s proposal calls on the Legislature to invest $86 million a year to provide free meals to the 330,000 students who are currently not eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do not attend a school in the CEP.
Some states whose schools offer free meals to all students include California, Vermont, and Massachusetts.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will submit the proposal to Governor Jay Inslee and the Legislature for consideration in the 2023 legislative session.
If funded, all students in Washington will be eligible for free school meals by the start of the 2023-2024 school year.