WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — State lawmakers and education leaders are discussing the expansion of Connecticut’s free school meals program for the 2023-24 school year.
Under the plan, $16 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding the state received will go toward the program, according to Gov. Ned Lamont, who was joined by Education Commission Charlene Russell-Tucker and other advocates at Monday morning’s news conference at Charter Oak International Academy.
“No child should come to school hungry, and no child should go home from school hungry,” Rep. Jillian Gilchrest (D-District 18) said.
The governor’s office said the funding will support the free school meals program in the following ways:
- All students in non-Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools participating in the federal School Breakfast Program (SBP) will be able to receive breakfast meals at no cost, including day students within residential childcare institutions. Approximately 114 districts participating in the SBP are eligible to receive this funding serving an estimated 177,243 eligible students.
- Students who are eligible for reduced-price meals in non-CEP schools participating in the federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) will be able to receive lunch at no cost, including day students within residential childcare institutions. Approximately 128 districts participating in the NSLP are eligible to receive this funding, serving an estimated 13,197 eligible students.
State leaders said reimbursements to districts for meals served will be provided based on whether the students qualify for free, reduced-price, or paid meals.
Lamont signed emergency legislation in February that provided $40 million to fund the program through the 2022-23 academic year. Federal COVID-19 money had funded meals for all Connecticut students until late 2022 when that funding ran out.
Hadley Hamilton Morris has seen firsthand what happens when students aren’t able to get food.
“When free school meals stopped last year, I had friends who didn’t eat because they didn’t have food at home and didn’t have money to buy meals,” she said. “Free breakfast at school will mean everyone will have access to at least one healthy meal a day, and no one will have to worry about being shamed about not having food at home.”
New Haven is among several Connecticut cities and towns offering free summer meal programs.