OLYMPIA – For thousands of children, lack of nutritious meals at home and at school is a real consequence of poverty in Washington state. But thanks to new legislation passed by the House, more schools could provide free meals to all their students. The Hunger-Free Schools Act, HB 2660, ensures the availability of breakfasts and lunches for about 7,200 students provided by 15 more Washington schools—at no cost to the state.
“Children struggle with hunger in our state for absolutely no reason,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, the bill’s prime sponsor. “We can utilize existing resources at the federal level to qualify more students for free breakfast and lunch, putting Washington state on a path where no child is lunch shamed or made to go without.”
The federal government will fund school meals at no charge if a high percentage of students in a school or group of schools meet requirements to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). Some Washington schools have tried to qualify, with varying success. To encourage more CEP participation, Riccelli’s legislation directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to examine participation plans and requires schools who should qualify for CEP to participate. Approximately 7,200 students in 15 different schools will be required to be included in the CEP, moving Washington toward greater participation and a path toward every student having access to breakfast and lunch. Several Spokane-area schools, including Shaw Middle School, Longfellow Elementary, and Sheridan Elementary, will be among those required to participate in CEP.
“Hungry kids can’t learn and this is a great next step to helping students get the education they deserve,” said Riccelli after the 97-1 vote on the House floor.
HB 2660 now heads to the Senate for consideration.