Kinkead urges Shapiro to provide free school meals in state budget

Advocates for more aggressive investments, highlights legislative solutions

HARRISBURG, March 13 – State Rep. Emily Kinkead sent a letter to Gov. Josh Shapiro today requesting his support for state budget initiatives guaranteeing no child in the Pennsylvania public school system will go hungry during the time they are supposed to be learning.

“The federal pandemic programs guaranteeing free breakfast and lunch in schools over the past three years demonstrated the immense benefits of providing free school meals,” said Kinkead. “Why stop now? Learning minds require nutrition whether a pandemic is happening or not. We have the money, and we know it benefits both educators and students in our schools. This is a real opportunity to permanently improve all Pennsylvania schools and it would be foolish not to pursue it.”

In the letter, Kinkead thanked Shapiro for highlighting food insecurity in his budget address but was adamant she believes his proposal does not go far enough to address child hunger. Most notably, where Shapiro included free breakfast in his budget proposal, she is requesting an estimated $275 million be added to the state budget to provide universal free school meals – breakfast and lunch – to all K-12 students in Pennsylvania public schools. She is also requesting an additional $30 million increase to the state’s supplement for the community eligibility programs and $25 million to be used to retire student lunch debt across the Commonwealth.

“Altogether, this request amounts to just 0.007% of our state’s overall budget but the return on investment is exponential,” Kinkead explained.

The universal free school meals program was initially proposed through legislation introduced last fall by Kinkead and State Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny. The pair plans to soon re-introduce the legislation for consideration in the 2023-24 legislative session.

In February, Kinkead was appointed as the House co-chair of the Legislative Hunger Caucus. She and co-chair State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence recently held a legislative lunch and learn with the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition at the Capitol encouraging fellow lawmakers to support the expansion of public food resources.

The full letter to Shapiro is available here.