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Free school breakfast and lunch program extended for another school year

Students will once again have the option of free breakfast and lunch in Michigan’s public schools in the upcoming school year, regardless of income.

The recently passed state budget includes an additional $40 million for universally free breakfasts and lunches in public schools, for a total of $200 million. According to the governor’s office, the move would continue to save families an estimated $850 a year that would otherwise go to food.

“When students are fed, they can focus better in class,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news release Wednesday. “Let’s keep working together to feed our kids and ensure every family has the support they need to thrive.”

While the program has not been made permanent in state law despite a Senate proposal to do so last year, this year’s funding signals it could be around awhile. The 2023-24 school year was the first year of universal free meals funded by the state. By March, 3,300 school buildings across the state served free meals through the program, up from the 1,600 that served free meals using federal dollars in the 2022-23 school year.

The increase in meals consumed by schoolkids hasn’t come without challenges: Administrators reported longer lunch lines leading to less time to eat, and renewed concerns from parents about the nutritional value of what’s served in school meals.

Still, political and school leaders have hailed the program a success, particularly because it helps remove barriers for hungry children to be fed while in school.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean schools have ceased serving food. The state also runs a summer food program. Families can find locations and serving times using this map. The summer sites, often at schools, serve meals to anyone 18 and younger, Monday through Friday.

Contact Lily Altavena: [email protected].

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