Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny) and state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) announce legislation for the no-cost school lunch program at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Sept. 21, 2022. (Courtesy: PA House of Representatives)
Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny) and state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) announce legislation for the no-cost school lunch program at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Sept. 21, 2022. (Courtesy: PA House of Representatives)

Lindsey Williams and Emily Kinkead have proposed taking $275 million from the state budget and using it for a free school lunch program aimed at combating child hunger and improving academic success.

For some children, a school lunch might be their only source of food. 

That’s why state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny), along with anti-hunger advocates and educators, are pushing for legislative action to reinstate the no-cost lunch program at Pennsylvania K-12 schools.

Williams and Kinkead each recently introduced bills in the Senate and House calling for $275 million from the state budget to be used for the program aimed at combating child hunger and improving academic success by providing access to healthy meals. 

“Whether we’re helping a student who forgot their lunch at home, a parent struggling with the loss of a job, or a family just trying to make ends meet, ensuring that every student has access to breakfast and lunch with no shame or stigma is one of the most common sense ways we can help our kids be ready to learn every single day,” Williams said during a press conference.

The proposals follow months of urging from Democratic lawmakers for the Wolf administration to offer no-cost meals ahead of the 2022-23 school year. Just weeks ago, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the Universal Free Breakfast Program.

Waivers approved by the US Department of Agriculture afforded students free school meals from March 2020 through the 2021-22 academic year, amounting to nearly 1 million Pennsylvania students eating for free each year.  With the waivers, schools across the commonwealth served more than 16 million free lunches in November 2021 alone, according to state reports.

Both bills have been referred to the Senate and House education committees.