School districts across the country offering universal free lunch options

Starting May 1, community eligibility will be available to schools in all 50 states.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Hunger crises do their greatest damage to those who are already most vulnerable: The poor, the elderly, the disabled, and, of course, children. As a result of America’s present hunger crisis, one-fifth of all households with children are classified as food insecure by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which which defines food security as “access … to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

In total, 8.3 million children in this country are not getting the food they need. At the same time, food stamp cuts have put extraordinary strain on both public and private anti-hunger programs, to the point where even many food pantries and soup kitchens are unable to meet the basic needs of their clients. The food security safety net is fraying to the breaking point.

But there is one notable exception to the overall trend. Even as Congress signs off on billions of dollars in food stamp cuts, the federal government is dramatically expanding its free school meals program. Thanks to a 2010 law championed by first lady Michelle Obama, a growing number of schools across the country are offering free meals to all of their students, regardless of whether those students’ parents applied for the program.

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