Should school meals always be free?

This year, the free meal waiver for all students from the federal government has expired. This waiver allowed schools across the country to provide free meals for all students during the COVID 19 pandemic. This year, school breakfast will cost $2 and, in elementary schools, lunch will cost $2.75 and $3.75 for middle and high school students, respectively.

Regardless of financial status and income level, school meals should be free for all students in FISD. 

The pandemic has created lingering negative effects throughout the world. Those effects did not disappear when the waiver ended. Inflation and rising costs across the globe puts a strain on families. School meals get costly very quickly and it is already hard to qualify for free and reduced meals because the threshold is an extremely low annual income. To qualify for a free meal in the 2022-2023 school year an average family of 4 needs to make $36,075 annually and $51, 338 annually for a reduced meal. Food is a right, not a privilege and everyone deserves the opportunity to eat. Utilizing the free meal policy removes the income gap between students who qualify for free or reduced meals and those who do not and alleviates the financial burden of paying for meals. 

Having free meals available at school positively affects students’ disposition. When people are hungry, it impacts their thinking process. According to Feeding America, not having a sufficient amount of food has “serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity” Students will be more motivated to learn if they are physically prepared. Also, the free meals will allow for students suffering from food insecurity to not have to worry about when or where they will have their next meal. At least while students are in school, they will have nutritious and filling food to contribute to a successful future. 

Those who believe that school meals should be paid for, believe that the school district can’t support paying for free lunches and that re-implementing free meals would damage the school economy. This may be true, but students’ health and wellbeing should be prioritized and implementing free meals is a small price to pay for the greater good.

We, Vanguard News, believe that school meals should be free or at minimum be sold at a cheaper price. This will ensure a successful school year and academic career for students as well as aiding their mental and physical health.