For many of our students, the most substantial meal(s) they will eat will be the one(s) they eat at school. Those meals should be healthy, nutritious, and easily accessible. Our food services staff do a great job at serving our students’ nutritional needs everyday. Programs like “Project Bread” help keep the food selections exciting for our students, while programs like “Farm to School” give us greater access to healthier ingredients. We have the potential to do far more.
Throughout the country, and certainly here in Amherst, we have families incurring debt related to lunch and other meals. Some can afford to cover the debt, while others (many on reduced rates) have a difficult time. If we view food as a right, not a privilege, we should think about evening the playing field, so to speak. If we aim for a goal of providing free lunch for all students, we reduce the stigma children on free and reduced lunch currently deal with. Looking at our elementary schools, approximately 32% of our students (according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education statistics) are identified as being from economically disadvantaged homes. Almost 40% of our elementary school students already qualify for free or reduced lunch. That is very near the threshold required for federal assistance in providing free lunch for all. Reaching the goal of providing a free lunch for every student is very realistic. It is the most equitable approach to meeting our children’s nutritional needs.