First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the nationwide expansion of universal meals for schools with 40% or more of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals. According to the White House press release, the program will roll out July 1, enabling more than 22,000 schools across the country—primarily serving low-income students— to provide healthy lunches and breakfasts free of charge, regardless of family income. The new policy change will help as many as 9 million American children eat healthy meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement. The program piloted in 11 states has had great success connecting more children with healthy school meals.
Advocates and schools champion the policy for promoting greater access and making the policy cost-neutral. The program will leverage existing data from other programs like SNAP and TANF to identify qualifying schools and eliminate traditional paper applications and other USDA eligibility requirements that burden schools with administrative costs. The announcement is part of the Let’s Move! Initiative, which aims to transform the school health environment and improve marketing to kids to create long-term change that makes the healthy choice the easy choice in schools.
For more information on First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign and proposed policies around School Wellness policies, please see the Let’s Move! website www.letsmove.gov/.