BOSTON — Massachusetts is poised to join a handful states that make meals free for public school students, regardless of their incomes.
A provision in the $56.2 billion state budget for the next fiscal year would, if it survives Gov. Maura Healey’s veto pen, will require the state to provide breakfast and lunch free for all K-12 school students.
The move, which will cost $171.5 million in the next fiscal year, would make permanent a pandemic-related policy that provided free school meals for students in the past three years.
Supporters said the changes will help alleviate food insecurity and provide much-needed economic relief for families, who are paying more for groceries and other basic necessities amid the pinch of inflation and other financial pressures.
“For far too long our school meal system left thousands of kids and families behind,” said Rep. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, who has pushed for universal free school meals. “Whether through student meal debt or the income threshold that left working families struggling — we are doing away with a system that kept kids hungry.”
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