PRESS RELEASE: USDA announces free lunches for all students through 2021-22 school year

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021


DATE: April 22, 2021

USDA announces free lunches for all students through 2021-22 school year
The extension will bring relief to millions of food-insecure families.

RICHMOND, VA – The United States Department of Agriculture has extended universal free lunch for all students through the next school year, bringing relief to millions of families struggling with food insecurity.

“This one action will not only help feed hundreds of thousands of children throughout the Commonwealth,” said Salaam Bhatti, public benefits attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, “but it will effectively erase school meal debt for one year, improve student’s focus in class and their test scores, and help food insecure students receive at least one meal a day.”

There are 1,252,756 students in public schools in Virginia. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, over 460,000 students in Virginia participated in free and reduced-price school meals daily.

The decision will positively impact families who may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals but do not participate, as they will no longer need to worry about budgeting for school meals, and children will not have to go hungry during the school day.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center has been working since 2013 to advance better school meal policies, having worked with legislators and advocacy partners to secure wins in banning lunch shaming, alternative meals, and suing families for unpaid meal debt.


The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) is the state support center for all civil legal aid programs in Virginia. VPLC’s work breaks down systemic barriers that keep low-income Virginians in the cycle of poverty through advocacy, education, and litigation.

Monica Lauw
Communications Director, Virginia Poverty Law Center
(804) 351-5262

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