Kinkead: PSEA calls for universal school meals

Joins 20 school districts in supporting bills to provide free school meals

HARRISBURG, June 14 – The Pennsylvania State Education Association has passed a resolution supporting legislation that would create a free, universal school meals program in the commonwealth, state Rep. Emily Kinkead announced today.

“I am pleased to see the largest public sector union in Pennsylvania recognize the necessity of providing proper nutrition in learning environments,” said Kinkead. “Senator Williams and I have been beating the universal school meals drum nonstop since the federal pandemic-era programs providing free breakfast and lunch expired. Those temporary programs demonstrated the immense benefits of providing nutrition to students at no cost – we should make them permanent. Allowing students to go hungry in school is detrimental to the goals of public education and contributes to food insecurity.”

Kinkead and Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, have introduced companion bills to provide free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students in Pennsylvania public schools using an estimated 0.007% to 0.01% of the previous state budget.

The PSEA passed Resolution E-03 in May, which called for providing free school meals, as well as eradicating school meal debt.

"As a member of PSEA we not only advocate for teachers, but also students. The recent passage of a resolution that calls for abolishing meal debt and providing universal meals shows our union's commitment to providing the tools necessary to foster the opportunities for growth of our students,” said Vito Malacari, a PSEA member and PA Cancel Lunch Debt Coalition member.

In addition to PSEA, at least 20 individual school districts across 12 counties have passed resolutions supporting a universal school meals program for Pennsylvania schools.

“Not only will providing free meals to all Pennsylvania students go a long way to combat hunger, it will also allow our schools' lunchrooms to act as another classroom; a place to try new foods, learn about local food producers, and gather together around meals made to nourish bodies and minds,” said Jackie Huff, a school board member of State College Area School District, one of the districts that has passed a resolution supporting the initiative.

“The School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania (SNAPA) commends PSEA and school boards across the Commonwealth that have signed on to support the Universal School Meals Resolution,” said Melissa Froehlich, communication chair at SNAPA. “Studies have shown that school meals reduce childhood hunger, decrease childhood obesity, enhance development, support learning and contribute to positive mental health outcomes. Free meals for all students in Pennsylvania would strengthen child nutrition programs, address equity and stigmas around school meals and eliminate issues surrounding unpaid meal debt so more children would have access to nutritious meals.”

"We know working-class families in Pennsylvania are struggling to make ends meet as the pandemic comes to an end. Lunch debts are unjust; we can cancel them for a small price. Cancel the lunch debts now, make universal school meals available,” said Nick Marcil, a PA Debt Collective organizer and PA Cancel Lunch Debt Coalition member.

Kinkead’s H.B. 180 and Williams’ S.B. 180 were both referred to the Education Committee in their respective chambers in March. Neither has been brought up for a committee vote.