WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Tens of thousands of families will have better access to food for their children this year thanks to a now-permanent measure in the state budget funding school lunches.

Westfield has their first day back to class on Wednesday, and this year’s state budget included $172 million specifically to fund universal meals for public school students, K through 12, a culmination of a years-long campaign to cut down on food insecurity among children.

COVID-19 disruptions highlighted how reliant thousands of families in Massachusetts and across the country are on their school district to feed their children, with food insecurity rates rising from one-in-10 households with children, to one in five.

During the pandemic, the state expanded universal lunch to include all school children. It was then extended through 2022 and made a permanent fixture this year.

The result, according to Project Bread, 80,000 more kids ate lunch at school daily in 2022 than in 2019. The move made Massachusetts the ninth U.S. State to adopt universal lunch for this school year.

Local News

Duncan MacLean is a reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2019. Follow Duncan on X @DMacLeanWWLP and view his bio to see more of his work.