New Jersey expands free school meal access

Also in this week’s K-12 legislative update: Washington state introduces another universal free meals bill and Kentucky school nutrition workers could see a pay raise thanks to the governor’s state budget proposal.
lunch trays in cafeteria
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed SB 4055 into law. | Photo: Shutterstock.

An estimated 51,000 more students will now be able to enjoy free meals at school in New Jersey thanks to a recent bill that was signed into law. Also at the state level, Washington state has introduced another universal free meals bill and school nutrition workers in Kentucky could be getting a pay raise thanks to the governor’s new state budget proposal.

Here’s the latest in school nutrition legislation.

Additional New Jersey students to receive free meals at school

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed SB 4055 into law which will provide free meals at school to students who come from families with an annual household income of not more than 224% of the federal poverty level. 

The state estimates about 51,000 more students will now have access to free meals daily at school.

The new law builds upon the 2022 Working Class FamiliesAnti-Hunger Actwhich provides free school lunch for students whose families annually earn no more than 199% of the federal poverty level. 

Washington state tries again to pass universal free meals for all

Washington state Representative Marcus Riccelli has introduced HB 2058 which would establish a universal free school meal program in the state.

The bill builds upon legislation that was passed last year that requires elementary schools in the state to provide free breakfast and lunch this school year if 40% or more of their students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Elementary schools where between 30% and 40% of students qualify must begin to provide universal free meals starting in the 2024-25 school year.

The bill is currently in the House Committee on Education.

Kentucky governor seeks a pay raise for school personnel

Cafeteria workers in Kentucky might soon be making more money on the job.

Governor Andy Beshear has included over $1 billion in his latest state budget to give all public school employees in Kentucky, including foodservice staff, an 11% raise.

The increase could draw additional potential hires for school nutrition teams.

Last year, the governor also tried to expand school foodservice teams’ hiring pool by signing HB 32  into law which eliminates the requirement that employees must have a high school diploma to work in a school cafeteria.



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