A pair of Rhode Island bills centering on healthy free school meals is headed to the House of Representatives.

Senate passes free universal school meals bills; heads to House of Representatives

(The Center Square) – A pair of Rhode Island bills centering on healthy free school meals is headed to the House of Representatives.

The Senate ratified a pair of education bills sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sandra Cano, D-Pawtucket, which calls for public schools to provide healthy, free meals to all students.

“The science and data are clear – our children perform better in school when universal healthy free meals are offered,” Cano said in a statement late Tuesday. “Physical, social and mental health stressors for our students are consistently lessened when our children are fed properly through universal healthy free meals. The current free or reduced meal model also, unfortunately, causes many children to fall through the cracks, possibly having to forgo eating because their families might make a fraction more than the program eligibility requires.

“In order to give all of our students the best possible opportunities to succeed later in life, our schools need to provide universal healthy free meals to our kids.”

Under Senate Bill 68 and Senate Bill 71, according to a release, free meals would be provided for all public elementary and secondary school students. State and federal funds would remain available. The bill would remove language in the law that stipulates only students from families who are not meeting income requirements of the state and federal government receive free meals.

“While our free and reduced meal programs in public schools help many children, the current status quo still leaves too many students hungry during the school day for reasons such as social stigma, family finances, or varying other factors,” Sen. Jonathan Acosta, D-Central Falls, said in a statement. “While the causes for each individual case of child hunger in school may be complex, the solution to every instance is astonishingly simple – provide free and healthy meals for all of our students.

“The evidence and data proving the effectiveness of this approach is plain as day, and it’s time we give our students the most important thing they need for educational success – a school day free from hunger.”

According to a release, more than 30 organizations supported the legislation.

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