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Lawmakers introduce Healthy School Meals for All Act for Wisconsin students

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 5:30 PM CST
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PULASKI, Wis. (WBAY) - The pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in Wisconsin, especially in schools.

On Thursday, state lawmakers and the state superintendent introduced the Healthy School Meals for All Act.

”Kids who have to experience hunger do not learn,” said Wisconsin State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly.

During the pandemic, school lunches became free for all public school students. Now advocates are hoping to make the change permanent.

“If we don’t take action, in June of 2022 the federal extension, the waivers will expire and that will mean we’ll go back to what we had before, and what we had before wasn’t good enough,” said Representative Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay).

The Healthy School Meals for All Act started circulating legislation after it was introduced in the Glenbrook Elementary School cafeteria in Pulaski.

The Act hopes to provide free, healthy breakfast and lunch to all students in Wisconsin, with state aid to reimburse public and private schools.

“We are sort of removing the stigma of what hunger and food insecurity looks like and that has taken time,” said Rep. Shelton.

Shelton said this bill is “the kitchen approach” to transforming school meals.

“Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin has seen a 29% increase in childhood hunger, compared to pre-pandemic times,” said Maureen Fitzgerald, Vice President of Government Relations, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.

“In 2019, an estimated 33% of Wisconsin children experienced food insecurity, but did not qualify for free or reduced priced school meals,” said Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).

Over 50 organizations and state partners have already signed on in support of the legislation.

Lawmakers say not only will this be an investment in our children, but in our local farmers, as well.

“Well it turns out shortening our supply chains by investing in local food systems in a multi-faceted solution, is the solution to this growing problem in food systems right now in our community,” said Representative Francesca Hong (D-Madison).

State lawmakers hope there will be bipartisan support for the plan.

To learn more about the Health School Meals for All Act, click here.

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