According to the National School Lunch Program, which is the nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program, they provided low-cost or free lunches to 29.7 million children daily at a cost of $13.8 billion. The food programs at schools across the country are extremely important as they ensure that students actually have food to eat. And for some, the school lunch program is the difference between having a daily meal and not.
Recently, Black-ish actress, producer, and entrepreneur, Marsai Martin took the time to pen an op-ed in Teen Vogue in order to stress the important of the school lunch program and why she is working hard with School Lunch for All to make sure that children have access to the meals that they need. Take a look at her Teen Vogue op-ed in its entirety below.
My grandma, who I called my Boobah, was a school lunch lady in Denver Public Schools and Little Elm Independent School District in Texas. When I was younger, she would tell me about the kids she’d see sitting alone at lunch, hungry and embarrassed that they didn’t have food. I could always tell how much it bothered her that these kids didn’t have access to what should be available for all students in school.You might be wondering if kids who can’t afford school lunch can currently get it for free? Not always. To qualify for the National School Lunch Program, students must come from homes that earn between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty line — an amount that equals $47,638 for a family of four — to enroll in free or reduced-price meals at school. Many families earn more than that but still struggle to cover the basic costs of living. They earn just enough to not qualify for school meal programs and still struggle to ensure that their children have meals at school while not having to go into debt.
Whether or not students have access to lunch at school impacts not only their health but also their ability to learn and perform in the classroom. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is a direct positive correlation between students’ health and their academic performance, education behavior, and cognitive skills and attitudes. Students who are well-nourished also miss less school and have fewer behavioral issues in the classroom.And universal free school lunch is more important now than ever. COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on both the physical and financial health of so many people. Even before COVID-19, 1 in 6 children in the U.S. were living in a food-insecure household, meaning, a household where they may not have access to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now, with more than 40 million Americans having filed jobless claims just since mid-March, even more families than usual need help with essentials and are struggling with food insecurity.
The good news is something that can be done to alleviate this issue of food insecurity, at least for kids during the school day.
In 2016, my Boobah passed away. I really wanted to honor her legacy by becoming a champion for free school lunch for all K-12 students, which is why I’m supporting School Lunch for All. We’re kicking off the campaign with a Change.org petition in which we call on the United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to allow schools to serve free meals to every student during the 2020-2021 school year — and beyond. We are also asking for Congress to allocate additional funding needed to cover the cost of this expanded school lunch program.
My hope is to fight for free school lunch for all because school lunch debt and lunch shaming need to end now and forevermore.
If you can help and are interested in making a difference, visit the School Lunch for All website. Remember, it is within our control to make sure that no student should ever go hungry,