New state budget makes pandemic-era free school lunch program permanent

Governor Healey signed the Massachusetts 2024 fiscal year budget into law on Wednesday.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 9:20 PM EDT
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BOSTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Governor Maura Healey signed her first state budget into law today.

It includes big investments in housing, transportation, climate resiliency, and education.

Governor Healey says this budget will make Massachusetts more affordable, competitive, and equitable. Investments total more than 1 billion dollars for education alone.

Governor Healey signed the Massachusetts 2024 fiscal year budget into law on Wednesday.

The $55.98 billion dollar state budget prioritizes funding to improve housing and homelessness across the commonwealth, provide better health resources, advance services for veterans, transform roads and public transportation across the state, and even tackle hunger and food insecurity in our schools.

“Universal free school lunches, an investment in childhood nutrition that’s also removing a source of stress from our schools and our homes,” said Healey.

$172 million dollars is being spent to make a pandemic-era free school lunch program permanent. Beginning this school year, every student in the public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade will receive free meals, regardless of their financial status.

We caught up with Andrew Stratton, General Manager for Homegrown Springfield, which is the culinary and nutrition program with Springfield Public Schools. He says this investment will really make a difference for families.

“The funding helps school districts across the state provide meals. If somebody was paying full price on a meal, it could be as much as $1,200 a year. If you have two or three students that can really affect your budget. and this really helps them,” said Stratton

Stratton also tells Western Mass News more resources have the potential to improve the quality of meals and eliminate the taboo around food insecurity.

“The quality of the meals in Massachusetts will go up as well as reducing the stigma of low-income programs, like school meal programs. They are not going to be based on income, they are just going to be healthy, nutritious meals that hopefully the students will enjoy,” said Stratton.

stratton says this will close the hunger gap among students who skip meals at school. and he hopes it will lead to less food waste in schools as well.