***For Immediate Release *** September 23, 2022
Katherine Ungar, Policy Associate Alison Paxson, Senior Policy Associate
Hunger-Free Schools Ohio Coalition Supports the Ohio State Board of Education Resolution to Recommend to the General Assembly the use of ARPA funds to provide Free Breakfast and Lunch to all Ohio Students
COLUMBUS — Last month, a member of the Ohio State Board of Education introduced a resolution to recommend to the General Assembly the use of American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) funds to provide 100% free breakfast and lunch to all Ohio students.
This past school year, over 90 million breakfasts and more than 171 million lunches were served under the no-cost meal waivers as permitted by the federal government. The resolution points out that this amount is substantially higher than pre-pandemic program meal counts and demonstrates that free school meals for all students promotes student meal participation. It also points to five other states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Vermont) that have passed legislation providing no cost meals to all students, as well as Pennsylvania which recently passed legislation approving no-cost breakfast for all students.
The Hunger-Free Schools Ohio coalition, a growing group of nearly 40 anti-hunger, education, and food and nutrition organizations and associations, supports this resolution and urges the State Board of Education to approve the measure. The coalition has been urging Governor DeWine’s administration and the General Assembly to prioritize child well-being by investing in school meals for all children.
“Providing healthy school meals at no cost for every student in Ohio – regardless of income – is a critical investment in improving the health and well-being of Ohio’s students, ending child hunger in schools, and strengthening our education and health systems,” Katherine Ungar, a Senior Policy Associate with the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio explained on behalf of the coalition. “Ohio can be a place where all families and children thrive, but we must start by prioritizing them in our funding decisions – this resolution is an important first step.”
School meals have played a central role in reducing hardship during the pandemic. Since March 2020, USDA has provided waivers to schools, allowing them to serve meals at no cost to all students. These meals have been a lifeline for struggling families, but the waivers expired at the end of this school year, leaving schools and students in Ohio without access to free school meals. Providing healthy school meals for all Ohio students would ensure that every K-12 student in Ohio has equal access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch at school to support their health and academic success.
A record number of Ohio children do not have enough to eat, and the economic recovery for families who struggle to put food on the table will take years. Access to school meals has proven successful in improving children’s health and academic success and reducing hunger, as well as in providing families with economic relief. Research shows school meals improve school attendance, academic achievement, standardized test scores, and overall cognitive function. Consumption of school meals is also linked with greater food security, reduced obesity rates, and improved physical and mental health outcomes.
“There has never been a more important time to invest in school meals for all children,” continued Ungar in a statement. “The ability to serve all students a nutritious meal, regardless of income, should continue as we recover from the worst of the pandemic. School meals for all students in Ohio will allow our schools to be hunger-free, ensuring all children are fed during the school day and better prepared for learning.”
The Hunger-Free Schools Ohio Coalition urges the State Board of Education to approve the Resolution to Recommend to the General Assembly the Use of ARPA Funds to Provide 100% Free Breakfast and Lunch to all Ohio Students.
About Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio
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