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  • Currently, only students from homes with incomes 185 percent of the poverty line (US $47,600 for a family of four) can enroll in free or reduced-price meals.

    Currently, only students from homes with incomes 185 percent of the poverty line (US $47,600 for a family of four) can enroll in free or reduced-price meals. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 October 2019

According to the legislation, free breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided to every student at every public school in the United States.

United States Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, along with Representative Ilhan Omar introduced Tuesday new legislation to provide all the children with access to free meals at every public school in the country.

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"In the richest country in history of the world, when the top one percent are making more than they ever have before, it is simply outrageous that one in five children will go hungry this year," said Sanders in a statement introducing the Universal School Meals Program Act.

"I am proud to propose legislation to make sure that no student goes hungry at a public school and to eliminate the stigma surrounding children who receive free or reduced lunch," the senator added.

Omar mentioned that there are nearly one in 10 households in Minnesota that struggle with food insecurity, along with millions more across the country.

"We must find a way to address this crisis. When our children have empty stomachs, they cannot learn. They have more trouble concentrating. They are more likely to be absent or tardy.  Study after study finds that access to meals increases child participation," she added.

Numerous studies have indeed shown that providing school meals is highly advantageous to students, their parents, teachers, and schools. Students with access to free breakfast for instance, have improved attendance rates and perform better in school. 

Other studies exploring the issue revealed that children with access to meals enjoy much better health.

According to the legislation, free breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided to every student without proof being asked to them to demonstrate they deserve assistance getting three meals a day. Currently, only students from homes with incomes 185 percent of the poverty line (US$47,600 for a family of four) can enroll in free or reduced-price meals.

Another goal of the plan according to Sanders and Omar is to end the “school lunch shaming” in which some children feel abashed at needing food aid.

In a video released by the two lawmakers, local students and educators in Washington DC said the importance of school lunches and access to free meals. 

The bill is sponsored by a number of Democrats in the House and a coalition of children’s health and education advocates.

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