Sanders and Omar jointly introduced the Universal School Meals Program Act on Tuesday.

Lauren Wicks
October 17, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a new bill Tuesday that would aim to provide free meals each weekday to all school children in the U.S. According to the Universal School Meal Program Act bill summary, students would be able to receive free breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack at school, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The bill would also support families in the summer by providing an additional $60 per month on EBT cards.

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The Universal School Meals Program Act serves to end school lunch shaming, increase reimbursement rates for school meals, provide incentives for sourcing food locally and would even reimburse schools for all delinquent school meal debt. You can read the bill in its entirety, here.

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This bill also seeks to advocate for children of families who may not meet the current program's eligibility who still aren't getting the nourishment they need to succeed in school and thrive in other areas of life without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.

"In the richest country in the history of the world, when the top 1 percent are making more than they ever have before, it is simply outrageous that one in five children will go hungry this year," said Senator Sanders in a statement. "Today, 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."

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The bill states that offering this universal school meals program would benefit students, their parents, teachers and the entire school system, as several studies have shown students with access to a free breakfast perform better in school, have higher attendance rates and fewer behavioral issues. Additionally, other studies have found that children with access to a universal school meal plan have improved health outcomes.

"When our children have empty stomachs, they cannot learn," said Representative Omar. "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. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, no child should be turned away from a meal if they cannot afford it."

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