Saturday, September 30, 2023

Some parents in Massachusetts charge a fee for their children’s free lunches

Schools in Massachusetts offer free breakfast and lunch to all students, but some parents may still have to pay fees.

On Tuesday, August 8, Gov. Maura Healey signed a $56 billion budget that included $172 million for the permanent universal lunchtime program for public school students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The free meals program provides free breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of income, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said. However, students must take fruit and veg with them to receive the free meal, as schools without fruit and veg will not receive a refund for the meal. This means if a student misses the fruit or veg that day, they will be charged a fee.

At least some schools keep fruits and vegetables near the boxes as a reminder to students.

In addition, if a student receives an additional lunch, including a slice of pizza, after their first lunch, they will be charged a fee for this. Other à la carte dishes such as biscuits or ice cream also cost money.

So if you notice any distress, it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about these options.

The state program was created to counteract the stigma attached to receiving free meals, Laura Amedeo, head of school canteens in West Springfield, told The Republican.

“There are still many families struggling with food insecurity. However, students can now enjoy nutritious meals without worrying about debt or the embarrassment of receiving free meals or meals at a reduced price,” Amedeo said.

Previously, if a student owed money, a cashier would throw away the child’s hot meal and replace it with a cold cheese sandwich.

The Massachusetts Institute for Law Reform advocated that schools eliminate practices that shame children about their parents’ financial situation.

“Massachusetts is the nation’s leader in education; Now is the time for the Commonwealth to ensure that no child in our state is denied a school meal or shamed by a family’s school meal debt,” the 2018 report said.

Some school districts in Massachusetts have offered free lunches for years. However, officials said the program sheds light on how many families depend on school meals each day and will go a long way towards eradicating hunger in the state.

“Our goal is always to increase participation. We want more families to see the benefits and participate,” said Melanie Wilk, director of catering at Chicopee Public Schools.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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