Free school meals for all

New program implemented for every student to receive free meals when at school


Amryn McGinley

Different meal options offered, each containing a fruit or vegetables

Being a parent can be extremely stressful at times, especially when the pandemic has impacted so many families financially. The pandemic has only increased the struggles with kids being home all the time, not being able to go to work or see friends and having no time for oneself. 

Having schools supply free lunches and breakfasts to all students is one of the things that school boards are doing to try and reduce stress for busy parents and tired students. 

According to the Virginian Pilot, more than 376,689 Virginians are currently receiving unemployment benefits. This is a dramatic increase from this time last year, when just 18,478 people were receiving them.

42 million people living in the US have experienced difficulties having three meals a day according to The Forbes Advisor. This is due to the pandemic, which left many seeking work and safe accommodation.

“I think the free lunches are beneficial for those who have been negatively affected by the pandemic,” sophomore Sabrin Ahmed said. “[The pandemic] affected a lot of people financially and made it harder to make ends meet.”

Free meal options became available at the beginning of lockdown last year, continuing for 2021-2022 school year. They are available to anyone who needs them, regardless of financial status. 

Prior to the pandemic, free meals were available only to students who were unable to bring their own lunch due to their socioeconomic status or pay for the school lunches. However, the process could be challenging at times. Some families would be denied access to the meal programs because at a glance it seemed they were financially stable enough to supply food for their families, even when in reality they were struggling. The new program aims to eliminate this extra stressful step. 

“[COVID-19] has affected everyone in the county, and this was an opportunity to lessen the burden,” principal Mr. Tony Hall said. “Being a kid growing up in poverty, some days needing to pay for lunch was still a burden, so seeing this as an adult is very heartwarming.”

Although meals are free, some students feel that more food should be given out. 

“The food is good, but [the] portions are too small,” an anonymous student said. Some students will go as far as trying to sneak second meals to make sure they don’t go through the day hungry. 

“I don’t think there’s enough, most people end up getting seconds,” Ahmed said.

Consideration also went into the cafeteria workers and whether it would be too much stress for them to make enough food for 2,000 kids per day.

 “When kids pay for lunch, they need to have kids pay, collect money, enter student ID numbers and make sure that the online payment website is working as well,” Mr. Hall said. “But now workers have more time to focus on the meals and making things nutritious.”

The cafeteria workers are generally pleased with the free meals. 

“We’re definitely working harder [than] last year, [but we] enjoy preparing those meals because we know how much the students love it,” Asia Mustava, the head chef said.

Although, some people are not overjoyed with the new program. 

“One school official described the universal meals program as making it easy for families to ‘become spoiled’ and another said there could be a ‘slow addiction’ to the service,” the Washington Post said, referring to a story they ran about how this program is being implemented in Milwaukee

To learn more about the cafeteria workers, read Kayla Combs article, attached below.

To read the articles by Washington Post and The Forbes Advisor, attached below. 


Custodial staff vs the pandemic –

Washington Post –

The Forbes Advisor –

The Virginian Post –