Every child deserves a healthy start in life. Healthy meals at school help kids learn, grow, and thrive. But the reality is that too many kids in Oregon experience hunger and food insecurity. With one in every four children in the state of Oregon being food insecure, many families rely on school meals for their nutritional needs.
As part of the 2019 Student Success Act a comprehensive set of school meal policies significantly improved access to school meals designed to benefit communities at the highest risk of hunger. When students participate in school meals programs, their comprehension and attendance improve. The meals children receive at school prepare them for learning and shape their food choices and health outcomes as adults. But there is so much more work to do.
Providing universal access to school meals—making them for free to all students and eliminating cumbersome enrollment procedures or partial payments for some families—is the best way to ensure that all students are free from hunger and the stigma that arises from student meal debt or systems that draw attention to students’ financial situation at home.
Sixty-three percent of voters believe that free school meals for all students nationwide should be made permanent, according to Food Research Action Center polling. California, Colorado, and Maine have passed permanent Healthy School Meals for All legislation. Nevada, Massachusetts, and Vermont made free meals available to all students for the 2022–2023 school year, and many other states are considering Healthy School Meals for All bills. The American Heart Association is a proud partner in fighting for universal school meals, even if budget realities make this take longer than we would like.
hero_image_alt_text===A picture of elementary age kids eating school lunch
thumbnail_alt_text===A picture of elementary age kids eating school lunch