Leave your Lunch Money at Home!

The Seattle Public Schools district has chosen to implement a new free school lunch plan, but not every public school district has followed suit.


In the spring of 2021, The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that free school lunches would be available to every school district, regardless of students’ and families’ financial situations. According to Forbes, due to the pandemic, there has been a huge increase in food instability, from 35 million to 42 million people nationwide who struggle with finding meals. In 2021, the Seattle Public Schools district provided free meals during remote learning. 

This new announcement of free lunch is a continuation of the pandemic changes and has been running in Seattle Public Schools and Garfield. The new program allows students to eat outside of regular meal times and parents to pick up food for students learning from home. 

For all public schools across the U.S., students whose families qualify for the reduced lunch program get breakfast and lunch free. For one-person families, the maximum gross income is $22,459 per year. With one person added to the family, the maximum gross income increases by $7,992. (Seattle Public Schools).In Washington, a minimum wage worker’s salary is $28,475.20, which means that minimum wage workers would not qualify for free and reduced lunch in the SPS school system. With ever-increasing housing prices, high taxes, and expensive household needs, not having to pay for school lunches saves a large amount of money for SPS families.

However, not all school districts are following the same path as Seattle Public Schools. Even though school districts across the U.S. had the option to provide free school lunches to all students, some districts disregarded the announcement. On June 9th of 2021, the Waukesha school district in Wisconsin decided to opt-out of the free school lunch program, leading to criticism from families. Parents questioned why the board would not implement the program, as it would provide all children with food without having to fill out any paperwork.  According to a school board member in a Washington Post article, the Waukesha school board came to a decision to not participate in the program because they believed that children would “get spoiled”. They decided to return to the pre-pandemic free and reduced lunch program, arguing that it was a part of “normalization” following the pandemic. 

Advocates for free lunch in Waukesha county argue that it would be beneficial to families with food insecurity. They claim that the change to food protocol during the pandemic is a huge step in the right direction for helping families with food insecurity. Some families may not qualify for free or reduced lunch and yet still have trouble putting food on the table. For whatever reason, school lunch may not be accessible to some students, even though they would benefit from it. Because of the stigma surrounding free and reduced lunch, some students and families may choose to spend money on lunch from home, or are forced to go hungry while in school.

Even though Garfield students sometimes complain about the school lunch, and many don’t usually eat it, we still have the option to. Students having the option to eat breakfast and lunch for free is a necessity that some schools across the country have chosen to forgo, and the effects of that decision have been very impactful.