OLYMPIA – 90,000 more students will have access to free school meals thanks to a new law approved by Gov. Inslee today. The bill, HB 1238, was sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) in his efforts to eventually expand the state’s free school meals program to every student in the state, regardless of ability to pay.
“Our kids need access to nutritious food to grow, learn, and be healthy. Universal school meals is our goal, but this is a great step forward and will mean that over half of our 1.1 million public school students will qualify for free school meals,” said Riccelli.
Legislators have been improving Washington’s school breakfast and lunch program over the last five years by passing Breakfast After the Bell in 2018 (HB 1508), and through Representative Riccelli’s legislation requiring more schools to participate in the USDA Community Eligibility Program (CEP) in 2020 (HB 2660), and his follow up bill providing funding to more schools required to participate in CEP as recently as 2022 (HB 1878). HB 1878 helped some districts, like Spokane Public Schools, have the necessary resources to offer free meals in all schools across the district.
Changes to the free school meal program will be implemented and take effect on September 1, 2024.