PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — School lunch was on the menu at the Rhode Island State House Thursday.
More than 30 organizations are supporting bills that would make breakfast and lunch free for all public school students in the state, regardless of their household income.
“Every child needs to be fed during the school day. Period,” Rep. Justine Caldwell said. “High-quality, universal lunch in schools is an investment that will pay off in better academic achievement, fewer discipline problems and healthier kids who have a better day at school.”
According to the Rhode Island Department of Education, about 62% of lunches served statewide are either free or reduced-price.
During the beginning of the pandemic, school lunch was provided to students nationwide for free due to federal emergency funding and waivers. That funding expired at the start of the current school year.
“We know children cannot learn when they’re hungry,” Rep. Teresa Tanzi said. “Before the pandemic, we saw dystopian headlines where children were in debt because their parents couldn’t afford to feed them. We can’t go back to those days.”
Massachusetts is still offering free lunches for all students through the end of the school year.
As of now, only Maine and California have permanent universal free school meal programs.