House bill would make all school lunches free

By: - April 24, 2023 7:30 pm

All of the state’s K-12 students would become eligible for free school lunches if a House bill filed Monday becomes law.

Under House Bill 844, titled the School Meals for All Act, students would receive free breakfast and lunch. The bill calls for $172 million in recurring funds beginning next school year.

Students received free lunches for nearly two years through a federally subsidized program created in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The General Assembly passed legislation to expand free lunches for the 2022-23 school year for students who qualify for reduced-priced lunches.

HB 844 is sponsored Reps. Julie von Haefen and Cynthia Ball, both Wake County Democrats, Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat and Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons, a Democrat from Guilford County.

The bill to provide free school lunches comes as North Carolina’s school lunch debt climbs to more than $3.1 million, which is a state record.

School Meals For All NC, a statewide advocacy coalition that is lobbying lawmakers to provide school children with free lunches, say the meals are critical for families struggling to make ends meet.

A family of four with an annual income of $39,000 a year is eligible to receive free schools lunches. A family of four earning $55,000 a year is eligible for reduced-price meals.

Studies show that providing universal free school lunches can have a positive impact on academic outcomes.

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.