As we continue to cover the push for more school meal programs in Pennsylvania, advocates say it was one of the most important lessons learned from the pandemic.
During the pandemic, federal income guideline restrictions were lifted for many free school breakfast and lunch programs.
In the State College School District alone, they were serving 30-thousand meals per week.
“It was an equal playing field. Every child felt very welcome coming into the cafeteria. We saw tremendous participation. We knew every kid was being well nourished and well fed.”
But now, funding for school meals is changing after Governor Wolf’s administration recently instituted a universal free breakfast program.
Current legislative proposals in the Pennsylvania state House and Senate would provide $275 million annually for a universal school meal fund serving breakfast and lunch.
“If you really want a child’s mind to work, you have to give it more than just an education. You have to give them that very substance that helps them grow.”
Administrators realize that sometimes, there’s other factors involved in a free meal program.
“Sometimes those students feel like they can’t participate in the programming if it has been approved. Often times they feel a sense of shame, or they don’t want their friends to know.”
Some who frequently interact with students say providing a decent meal should remain the top priority.
“Who knows what’s going on at home. Maybe they need that meal, and we don’t know it. So, if we set a guideline and pick a certain number, we are not truly helping all the kids.”
The state’s new free breakfast program alone is expected to feed 1.7 million Pennsylvania students.