Marsai Martin believes all students should have access to free lunch. I do, too.
The Black-ish actress has partnere with school nutrition leaders Urban School Food Alliance and the national student-led coalition Student Voice to make sure students aren’t denied access to lunch and to prevent families from going into debt due to accumulating unpaid fees. In some cases, unpaid lunch fees can lead to other means of punishment and penalties, such as denying a student access to other school activities such as prom and non-curricular field trips, and, in the worst cases, students can be denied the ability to graduate.
Per a press release sent to The Root:
School Lunch for All is a national campaign led by The Soze Agency and Galaxy Gives to ensure that school meals are provided, free of charge, to every K-12 student in America. To kick off the campaign, School Lunch for All is launching a Change.org petition which will put pressure on several legislative leaders including, the United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, reallocated COVID-19 relief funds to ensure that all students have access to free meals whenever doors reopen for the 2020-21 academic year.
“With all the things that kids have to worry about while attending school, I believe a healthy lunch shouldn’t be one of them,” Martin said in a statement. “Kids should be able to focus on learning while at school, not whether or not they have enough money to eat.”
Martin and the two organizations are supporting a petition written by Dwight Howard, the grandfather of then-kindergartener Anya Howard, who was refused a hot lunch meal and also shamed for not having enough money in her school lunch account. We’ve also reported on other instances such as a Florida high school student who was denied school lunch for being 15 cents short in 2018.
“The time has come to stop putting the burden of family income in exchange for school meals on the shoulders of our children,” Katie Wilson, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Urban School Food Alliance said in a statement. “When they come to school, children can receive a bus ride, textbooks, the most updated technology, science labs, and great learning opportunities as part of the school day. Only when it comes to school meals do we ask them for information about their family income. The science is clear, a well-nourished child has a much better chance at success in the classroom and on the athletic field, so why do we tie the educational tool that school meals bring to the table to family income?”
“School meals provide a benefit to local economies and America’s farmers, so let’s join together and make sure they also provide a benefit to the children they were meant to serve. Make school meals a Universal free program,” Wilson’s statement continued.“The money saved in administrative paperwork can be reinvested in the quality of the food and health and wellbeing of our nation’s children can be reinvested in our future. The time is now to invest in our children, it is the right thing to do.”
As a former Chicago Public School student who was a part of the free lunch program, this means a lot to me, and I’ll certainly be signing this petition. If you’d like to sign the petition and/or learn more information about this initiative, please head to change.org. For more information on the School Lunch For All campaign, go to schoollunchforall.org.