GOVERNMENT

Bipartisan bill for free school meals heads to Delaware Senate

By Joseph Edelen
Posted 6/12/24

Food-insecure Delaware students are one step closer to receiving free school meals after the Delaware House of Representatives unanimously approved a bipartisan proposal Tuesday.

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GOVERNMENT

Bipartisan bill for free school meals heads to Delaware Senate

Posted

DOVER — Food-insecure Delaware students are one step closer to receiving free school meals after the Delaware House of Representatives unanimously approved a bipartisan proposal Tuesday.

Rep. Rae Moore, D-Middletown, and Rep. Bryan Shupe, R-Milford, combined efforts in April to provide free school breakfasts and lunches, working to introduce an affordable piece of legislation, while prioritizing the needs of struggling families.

“As a state, I believe that we have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that every child has access to the basic necessities, including nutrition. It is our responsibility to make sure that we put in safeguards for the well-being of our citizens, particularly the vulnerable population, such as children,” said Rep. Moore from the House floor.

“This bill takes a step in the right direction to ensuring that we’re addressing and understanding the proper essentials, such as nutrition, for cognitive development and academic achievement.”

House Substitute 2 for House Bill 125 has been in the works for over a year and, if signed into law, would provide the free in-school food to students eligible for federal reduced-price meal programs.

Such programs are extended to students whose family incomes are between 130% and 185% of federal poverty guidelines.

It was last April when Rep. Moore introduced the first version of HB 125, which would have cost the state an average of $40 million in each of the next three fiscal years because it applied to all Delaware students, regardless of household income.

At the same time, Rep. Shupe was working on a similar proposal for students who qualify for the federal School Breakfast and School Lunch programs.

After the lawmakers joined their initiatives, the price tag of the policy totaled an average of $247,000 over each of the next three years.

In the House chamber Tuesday, Rep. Shupe praised the bipartisanship of the proposal and how it would ensure that proper nutrition is not an obstacle for students at school.

“There are so many obstacles, whether it’s trauma from home or, unfortunately, sometimes trauma in school or something other in their life that they have to overcome,” he said. “We don’t want nutrition and the basic things that we take for granted sometimes … to be one of those obstacles.”

Following the House’s passage of the measure Tuesday, it was assigned to the Senate Education Committee for consideration. When the bill is debated in the Senate, it will be led by Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington.

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