Washington Expands Free School Lunch Program


OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee this week signed into a law a measure that will expand free school lunches to all students in kindergarten through fourth grade in districts where at least 30% of all students are eligible for free school meals under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school nutrition program.

"Our kids need access to nutritious food to grow, learn and be healthy. Universal school meals is our goal, but this is a great step forward and will mean that over half of our 1.1 million public school students will qualify for free school meals," said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, the legislation's sponsor.

Under the new law, beginning on Sept. 1, 2023, school districts where at least 30% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals can now offer free school breakfast and lunch to any student from kindergarten through fourth grade who asks. Districts with 40% free or reduced-price meal eligibility will be phased into the program over the next two years, according to the official summary of the legislation published by the Washington State Legislature.

The state will reimburse all costs of providing free meals under the expanded program, according to the bill summary.