OLYMPIA, Washington — Legislation that cleared an Olympia House committee this week would provide free breakfast and lunch to all schoolchildren in Washington.
Spokane Democrat Marcus Riccelli proposed HB 1238, which would make the lunches available at no cost to any kid who requests them.
He recently stated that out of Washington’s total student population of 1.1 million, around 700,000 are now eligible for free meals thanks to various government initiatives. But Riccelli thinks the other 400,000 youngsters should have the same opportunity to get free school lunches.
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About 40% of Seattle Public Schools’ schools meet the requirements for free lunches for all students. Eighteen of Everett’s 27 schools presently meet the requirements for free school lunches for all students. If a student wants free lunch at one of the other schools, they have to apply and be approved.
Riccelli argued that all children, regardless of where they were born, should have the chance to succeed and enjoy a long, healthy life.
In a statement to KING 5, Everett Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ian Saltzman said:
We support this bill because it would be great to have the ability to provide students with nutritious lunches every day. What a fantastic community service it is to ensure that all of our students get the healthy food they need to concentrate in class.
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In an interview with KING 5, Seattle Public Schools expressed its approval of providing free meals to all children.
Also, Riccelli is hoping this would help lessen the humiliation and embarrassment some students feel about receiving free lunch.
Riccelli said that it was absurd to separate pupils who were simply attempting to eat well for their own health.
There is a yearly cost of $90 million for this project. While the federal government would continue to cover the cost of school lunches for eligible pupils, the state would be responsible for covering the cost of the meals themselves.
According to Riccelli, “I think this is one of the best things we can do to make sure our kids can thrive compared to the entire education budget, which is in the billions.”
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In order to go to a vote in the House, the bill must first pass through the Appropriations Committee. If this bill becomes law, schools will be able to provide free lunches to all students beginning this coming school year.