Free school lunches extended through 2022

Published 5:58 pm Thursday, April 22, 2021

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended universal free lunch for all students through the next school year.

“This one action will not only help feed hundreds of thousands of children throughout the commonwealth,” Salaam Bhatti, public benefits attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said. “It will effectively erase school meal debt for one year, improve student’s focus in class and their test scores, and help food insecure students receive at least one meal a day.”

There are 1,252,756 students in public schools in Virginia. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, more than 460,000 students in Virginia participated in free and reduced-price school meals daily.

The decision will positively impact families who may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals, but do not participate, as they will no longer need to worry about budgeting for school meals, and children will not have to go hungry during the school day.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center has been working since 2013 to advance better school meal policies, having worked with legislators and advocacy partners to secure wins in banning lunch shaming, alternative meals, and suing families for unpaid meal debt.