Children eating in a school cafeteria

School Meals and the Governor’s Budget Address

(March 17, 2023) We at Allies for Children were thrilled to hear Governor Shapiro prioritize school nutrition in his first budget address last week. The Governor proposed continuing the Universal School Breakfast Program as well as expanding no cost school lunch, by removing the “reduced” category. In total, the Governor proposed $38.5 million for school meals.

We were also pleased to see Senators Williams and Schwank go even further than the Governor by proposing Senate Bill 180, which would provide all students, regardless of income eligibility, no cost breakfast and lunch, and erase existing lunch debt.

School meals are an essential ingredient to help our Commonwealth’s children succeed in school and life. From 2016 to 2020, Allies for Children partnered with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and school districts throughout Allegheny County to collaborate on increasing school breakfast participation to make sure students were fueled up and ready for a day of learning. You can read about this work in the annual school breakfast reports. The reports highlight how school policy changes can help combat childhood hunger and increase the number of breakfasts schools serve. In 2020, Allegheny County schools reached Governor’s Wolf’s goal of having 60 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch eating school breakfast. This goal was accomplished in part because of the alternative school breakfast models that were introduced and piloted through the work of Allies for Children and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Studies have shown that healthy meals to start the day, as well as a nutritious lunch, support learning in the classroom. School meals are linked to growth in academic achievement, improved attendance and behavior, and positive health outcomes. In addition to improving health and academic success, no cost school meals also reduce stigma for children who need them to meet basic needs.

To learn more about how school meals help reduce child hunger and how you can help support school meals for all in Pennsylvania, visit the School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania.

Allies for Children looks forward to working with partners, the General Assembly, and the Shapiro Administration to prioritize nutrition among our Commonwealth’s children.

Cristina Codario, Allies for Children Health Policy Director