A bill has been pre-filed in South Carolina that would provide universal free meals to public school students and extend the length of lunch periods.
Pre-filed by State Senator Katrina Shealy, the bill would allow schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students. In addition, it would require that lunch periods be 30 minutes long and guarantee that students have at least 20 of those minutes to sit and eat their meal instead of waiting in the lunch line.
The bill will officially be introduced on the first day of the upcoming legislative session next month.
South Carolina is the latest state to look at providing universal free meals to students. After the expiration of the USDA waivers that allowed schools to serve free meals to all students during the pandemic, some states, such as Nevada, have continued to provide universal free meals for another school year. Other states, such as Colorado, have decided to offer free meals to students permanently.
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has been advocating for the expansion of universal free meals for the past couple of years and support for free meals is expanding beyond school nutrition operators.
Food industry leaders backed universal school meals at the White House’s Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health held earlier this year, and recent research by social media analysis company Impact Social and food and agriculture publication Food Fix reveals that that social media discourse about offering free meals at school has been largely positive.