Rep. Sherae’a Moore, D-Middletown, pushed her bill to give all Delaware students free breakfast and lunch during a roundtable discussion Wednesday evening.
The roundtable at Everett Meredith Middle School included administrators, medical professionals, teachers, school nutritionists and other stakeholders who would like to see universal free breakfast and lunch.
Several members of the table said that hunger affects students, both academically and socially. It distracts them from class and makes them irritable, which makes it harder to form social connections with peers.
Moore said adults are taught to have three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in order to function at a high level and have energy throughout the day.
Proper nutrition is even more important in children, she said, since their brains are still developing and their bodies are growing.
House Bill 125, aims to extend a practice brought about by the pandemic in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture eased program restrictions to allow free breakfast and lunch for all students.
With the expiration of the federal waivers last June, participating Delaware schools were required to return to pre-pandemic policies. In many cases, this meant exclusively low-income students qualified for free meals.
Currently some schools provide free breakfast and lunch for all students because the schools qualify for Community Eligibility Provisions based on the percentage of students from low-income households.
These schools are reimbursed by the USDA.
According to the bill’s fiscal note, implementation would cost the state $31,635,852 ($6,801,866 for breakfast and $24,833,986 for lunch) in the 2023-2024 school year, $33,147,815 ($7,125,645 for breakfast and $26,022,170 for lunch) in the 2024-2025 school year and $34,804,569 ($7,486,590 for breakfast and $27,317,979 for lunch) in the 2025-2026 school year.
One breakfast for a student is estimated to cost the state between $0.30 and $2.17.
Approximately 9,022,550 breakfasts are served in Delaware schools each year. It wasn’t immediately clear how many are free.
One lunch for a student is estimated to cost the state between $0.40 and $3.56.
There is no cost to the state for federally reimbursed free lunches.
Approximately 16,427,270 lunches are served in Delaware schools each year. It wasn’t immediately clear how many are free.
“With universal free or reduced lunch, the benefit of it is that we know that everyone’s eating … and that they’re getting the proper nutrition throughout the day,” said Matt Burrows, Appo’s superintendent.
Overall meal costs are assumed to increase at an annual rate of 2.8% and overall meals served are assumed to increase at an annual rate of 2%.
HB 125 has been assigned to the House Education Committee but has not yet been on an agenda for a hearing.
Moore said she hopes that the funds for the bill are included in Gov. John Carney’s final budget.
“There is a heavy lift, because of the fiscal note,” she said, “but it’s worth the cost.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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