Vargas in Globe Op-Ed: Mass. must act now to maximize federal child nutrition and broadband dollars
Food insecurity and limited access to affordable and reliable broadband have been constant challenges throughout the coronavirus pandemic and during these early stages of economic recovery. However, the increased number of economically disadvantaged families with children enrolled in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during 2020 also means that Massachusetts is well-positioned to capitalize on a federal child nutrition program that can address both food insecurity and broadband access — Community Eligibility Provision.
Individual schools and school districts that qualify for the program are able to provide free meals to all students, without collecting school meal applications, meal fees, or chasing families for unpaid meal debt. If the state acts now, data on the historically high number of economically disadvantaged children is locked in for the next four years. This means it can guarantee universal free school meals in many districts for at least the next four years. This is especially critical now, as federal COVID funding for universal free meals for kids ends in June of 2022. Our bill would ensure that Massachusetts schools capitalize on this opportunity before it’s too late.