Celebrating Universal Free Breakfast and Expansion of Free Lunch in Pennsylvania

(August 14, 2023)

With the signing of the budget, we are celebrating universal free breakfast for all of Pennsylvania’s children and the expansion of free school lunch. Last week, Governor Josh Shapiro visited Penn Hills Elementary School in Pittsburgh to celebrate this huge win toward hunger security for children in Pennsylvania.

Although the USDA provided COVID-19 waivers for school meals starting in March 2020, this federal funding ended in the 2022 school year. Thanks to advocacy and prioritization of school breakfast from former Governor Tom Wolf, universal school breakfast continued through the 2022-23 school year. Now, we can say that the School Breakfast Program has sustainable, recurring funding within the yearly budget.

Universal free breakfast is a huge win for nutrition advocates, including Allies for Children. Most importantly, thanks to the $46.5 million increase, the state can now provide universal free breakfast to 1.7 million public school students, regardless of income. The budget also allows students whose families are between 130% and 185% of the poverty line to receive a free lunch rather than a reduced-price lunch. In the 2022-23 school year, about 60%, or 22,000, of PA’s children qualified for free or reduced lunch.

In addition to Gov. Shapiro, a huge thank you goes to Allegheny County Senator Lindsey Williams and Representative Emily Kinkead, as well as Berks County Senator Judy Schwank for championing free school meals in the General Assembly and leading their colleagues to include free school breakfast in the final budget.

While we celebrate, we continue to look at the next steps in advocacy for school meals, including supporting free lunches. Senators Williams and Schwank are currently cosponsoring a bill for free breakfast and free lunch for all students, regardless of income. Rep. Kinkead is cosponsoring a similar bill in the House.

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