Senator Lindsey M. Williams, Senate Dems, And SNAPA Ask Governor Wolf To Take Action On Free School Meals

August 5, 2022

Pittsburgh, Pa. August 4, 2022 − Senator Lindsey M. Williams, Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf and Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty urging the Administration to take any steps possible to temporarily extend access to free school breakfasts and lunches for all students for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. Senator Williams was joined by her Democratic colleagues on the Senate Education Committee in the letter, Senator Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny), Senator Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) and Senator Tim Kearney (D-Chester, Delaware).

Beginning this month, students will return for the 2022-23 school year and many students will once again be required to pay for breakfast and lunch. This will be especially difficult for families who fall just outside the USDA’s income-eligibility guidelines of a family income of 185% of the poverty level.  

“We’ve taken modest steps in the most recent budget to eliminate lunch debt shaming and help families enroll in free and reduced meal programs,” said Senator Williams. “But as our families are facing higher costs at the grocery store, now is not the time to take away reliable, nutritious meals from our students. Hunger is a major barrier to education—we’re asking the Governor to help break down that barrier for all students.”

“Currently, 1 in 7 children in Pennsylvania are experiencing food insecurity,” said Melissa Froehlich, SNS, SNAPA Public Communication Chair. “Studies have shown that school meals reduce childhood hunger, decrease childhood obesity, enhance development, support learning and contribute to positive mental health outcomes. Free meals for all students in Pennsylvania would strengthen child nutrition programs, address equity and stigmas around school meals and eliminate issues surrounding unpaid meal debt so more children would have access to nutritious meals.”

Members of the Senate Education Committee have asked the Governor to use Administrative Action on this issue following recent federal Congressional action that extended current school meal waivers through the summer but reinstated the pre-pandemic requirements for the 2022-2023 school year, leaving many of Pennsylvania’s students at risk of going hungry.