State lawmakers looking to make free school lunches permanent

Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced a bill to make free school lunches permanent in the Bay State.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 2:27 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced a bill to make free school lunches permanent in the Bay State.

“One of the most important programs that we can get behind in the Commonwealth is universal breakfast and lunch and that bill has been filed by my colleagues in the House and the Senate,” said State Senator Jo Commerford.

Comerford told Western Mass News that plans are in the works to make a free school lunch program permanent after it’s been temporarily in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s also really great for families that are having trouble making ends meet, so there is a short-term, immediate benefit for all the families in the Commonwealth whose kids get to eat free at school,” Comerford added.

The legislation proposes that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would pay for the permanent program, but the cost has not yet been determined. That’s something Comerford said is still being worked out.

“It has to be part of our general fund. One thing that is really important to keep in mind is that initially, we will have to front load some money into this program, but what it will give back to us, in terms of our return on investment, will be health cost savings. It will be a greater prepared workforce to fills those tens of thousands of jobs that we don’t have yet,” Comerford added.

We asked Comerford what the potential next steps are for this proposed bill.

“Every bill that’s filed gets a public hearing, so this bill will be assigned to a committee and then that committee will take up the bill and have hearings on it…We can also work in the Healey-Driscoll Administration to find a path forward as a policy measure that the administration can do without a bill,” Comerford noted.

Meanwhile, she shared why this is important for families.

“Just this morning, I got a call and an email from a constituent in Franklin County, saying to me ‘My kid, right now, is going to school, having breakfast and lunch and that’s helping my kid and helping my family,’” Comerford said.

We’ve reached out to Governor Maura Healey’s office for comment, but have not yet heard back.