We want Healthy School Meals for All

Despite Washington’s strong track record to remove barriers to help students have access to healthy school meals, there are still many students who don’t. One in eight children in Washington face food insecurity. This disproportionately impacts low-income students and students of color, in particular Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino children.


hero_image_alt_text===Children eating school lunch
thumbnail_alt_text===Children eating school lunch

Children facing food insecurity often do worse in school, and it negatively affects their ability to concentrate and achieve academically. Furthermore, research shows that that children at an unhealthy weight are at increased risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.[1] 

At the American Heart Association, we are committed to working to ensure that all children have access to quality, nutritious school meals. They are among the top nutritious sources of food for kids, and participation in school meal programs can improve a child’s overall nutrition.[2][3] Children that are a part of these programs have better diet quality, and academic performance may be influenced by school meals through improvements in nutrition and increases in school attendance rates. 

For the last several years, we have been advocating to the Washington State legislature on this issue. Due to concerns about how much it cost to fully fund school meals, in 2023, the state legislature passed a bill that focused on providing free meals to the youngest learners and highest poverty elementary schools. We saw a 150% increase in student participation in the free school meals program across Washington State, which demonstrated to us that there is great need for this program.

When the bill was reintroduced in 2024, funding continued to be amongst the highest concerns. We fought hard and met with legislators on both sides of the aisle to advocate for the program to be fully funded. The bill unfortunately failed to pass. The bill that passed in 2023 cost more than expected, and required additional funding of $45 million to close the gap, which the state legislature then allocated for in the 2024 budget.

We will continue to fight for healthy school meals for all students for the 2025 legislative session.

If you're interested in learning more about the work we're doing at the Federal level or in other states, you can learn more through this link.


[1] Virani SS, Alonso A, Benjamin EJ, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, Chamberlain AM, Chang AR, Cheng S, Delling FN, Djousse L, Elkind MSV, Ferguson JF, Fornage M, Khan SS, Kissela BM, Knutson KL, Kwan TW, Lackland DT, Lewis TT, Lichtman JH, Longenecker CT, Loop MS, Lutsey PL, Martin SS, Matsushita K, Moran AE, Mussolino ME, Perak AM, Rosamond WD, Roth GA, Sampson UKA, Satou GM, Schroeder EB, Shah SH, Shay CM, Spartano NL, Stokes A, Tirschwell DL, VanWagner LB and Tsao CW. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2020 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2020;141:e139-e596.

[2] Study Finds Americans Eat Food of Mostly Poor Nutritional Quality – Except at School | Tufts Now. (2021). Retrieved January 9, 2023, from https://now.tufts.edu/2021/04/12/study-finds-americans-eat-food-mostly-poor-nutritional-quality-except-school

[3] Clark, M. A., & Fox, M. K. (2009). Nutritional quality of the diets of U.S. public school children and the role of the school meal programs. J Am Diet Assoc, S44-56.


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