WA bill would make school meals free for all students
Washington state is considering making school meals free to every student. That idea received wide support at a recent Senate hearing. But some opponents say it’s a bad idea.
Jason Perrins, superintendent of the Chewelah School District in Stevens County, told the committee he agrees that hunger gets in the way of learning. But he opposes a universal free meal program.
“My concern is a bigger concern in education that we’re enabling our society and communities to rely on government and not build independent citizens,” Perrins said.
An estimated 1,200 schools in Washington qualify for the federal free lunch program. At the height of Covid, the program temporarily expanded to include every student. But that extension expired in September.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. T’wina Nobles, said every family has different financial means. She said making school meals available to all students helps remove the stigma that’s currently associated with receiving free lunch.
“We don’t want them to be shamed,” Nobles said. “We don’t want them to be overburdened or embarrassed at school. They should be off the hook especially when it comes to adult issues.”
Under Nobles’ bill, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction would reimburse school districts for meals that are not covered under the federal program.
If approved, Washington could join California and Maine, two states that currently offer universal school meal programs.