Michigan becomes the latest state to greenlight universal free school meals after lawmakers approved the state's budget bill last week. Meanwhile, Nevada’s universal free meals program is set to end next summer per the governor’s veto.
Things have also been busy at the federal level, with a new bill that would increase local seafood in school meals and two lawmakers introducing legislation that would rename the National School Lunch Program Act.
Here’s a look at the latest in school meal legislation.
Michigan says yes to universal free meals
Michigan lawmakers have approved the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which includes funding for universal free meals at school.
The state’s House and the Senate passed the budget, which allocates $160 million to provide free school breakfast and lunch daily this coming school year. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign the bill into law.
The budget includes only enough funding to provide the meals for the 2023-24 school year. Lawmakers will have to provide additional funding to continue the program for the following year.
Federal bill aims to increase seafood in schools
A lawmaker looks to get more U.S.-sourced seafood into school nutrition programs.
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has introduced the National Seafood Supply Act of 2023, which would require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an Office of Seafood Policy and Program Integration within the Office of the Chief Economist.
That office would then be responsible for developing a plan to increase the use of seafood in school nutrition programs.
In addition, the bill would require school nutrition programs to apply for a waiver if they wished to purchase foreign seafood or seafood products.
“This bill is a comprehensive legislative package to elevate the priorities of fishermen and the seafood industry within the USDA,” Sullivan said in a statement. “These provisions will give fishermen access to USDA farm loans, establish an Office of Seafood tasked with coordinating seafood policies and programs at the USDA and across federal agencies, focus taxpayer dollars in the National School Lunch Program on U.S.-harvested seafood, foster greater food security in rural communities, and ensure fair labeling of foreign-sourced seafood products, such as cooked crab and canned salmon.”
Two lawmakers want to rename the National School Lunch Program Act
The National School Lunch Program Act could get a new name, thanks to a new bill introduced by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Congressman Al Green (D-Texas).
Under the Renaming the National School Lunch Program Act, the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Program Act would be renamed after Jean E. Fairfax, who is recognized as a civil rights icon and is known for creating and leading the Committee on School Lunch Participation.
Through the Committee’s work, Congress established the Special Food Service Program for Children, which became the Child Care Food Service Program and the Summer Food Service Program. The Committee also motivated President Nixon to increase funding for the National School Lunch program to go towards serving more children in low-poverty areas.
“Jean Fairfax was a soldier in the battle for the rights of poor and minority children to gain the resources they needed to acquire a quality education,” Watson Coleman said in a statement. “The success of the National School Lunch Program in feeding 30 million children every school day is a product of her tireless efforts.”
Nevada governor vetoes universal free meals bill
Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo has vetoed a bill that would have extended the state’s universal free meals program for the next two years using $43 million in state funding.
The state was one of a handful that continued to offer universal free meals after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s pandemic-era waivers that allowed schools throughout the country to serve meals to all students at no charge expired last June. The state will continue to provide universal free meals through the upcoming school year.
See which states currently offer universal free meals via the map below: