WESTFORD — Massachusetts joins a growing number of states that have adopted a universal school lunch program, free of charge for students and families.
The federal program began in 2020 through waivers from the United States Department of Agriculture to provide meals to all students impacted by the pandemic.
Once federal funding for the program ran out in 2022, the state extended the program for an additional year through a one-time $110 million investment signed into law by former Gov. Charlie Baker.
Now, the recently signed $56 billion state budget signed by Gov. Maura Healey on Wednesday includes over $170 million to fund the program as a permanent fixture in Massachusetts schools.
The program is partially funded from 2022 voter-approved ballot initiative that levies a 4% tax on income over $1 million. Funds raised through this new tax must be used to support transportation and public education in the state. Federal funding will also be used to supplement funding for the program.
Colleen Wallace, Food Service Director at Westford Public Schools told WestfordCAT that she is “very excited that the MA legislature has decided to make free meals permanent.”
She added that WPS “will continue to offer the same quality and variety of meals including fresh fruits and vegetables daily.”
All first meals will be free for all WPS students, including breakfast and lunch. Second meals and entrees, incomplete meals and A La Carte purchases such as desserts, snacks, and bottled water will still incur a charge for students.