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Lawmaker builds support for free breakfast and lunch bill for Delaware students

State and education officials met with child nutritionists Wednesday to discuss a bill for free breakfast and lunch for all Delaware students.

Rep. Rae Moore is sponsoring HB125, which would require all schools to offer all students free breakfast and lunch every school day, but comes with a $25 million fiscal note.

“I knew because of our tough fiscal year that we are facing right now, filing it right now it wouldn’t get passed," Moore says. "So I’m just building up advocacy across the state, talking with stakeholders about the importance of the nutrition of a child.”

In a roundtable discussion at Everette Middle School in Middletown, Appoquinimink School District Superintendent Matthew Burrows says the district is incurring nearly $10,000 in school lunch deficits every month.

And Colleen Carter, school nutrition supervisor for Brandywine School District, says she has never seen lost revenue from school lunches so high – around $50,000 for the year.

“I know it has a high fiscal note, but we can also reduce that fiscal note by ensuring that our families still qualify for free and reduced meals or through another program that we have through USDA called CEP or Community Eligibility Provision, where we can feed those students at schools for free and receive federal dollars for that, so it doesn’t all have to come from state funds,” Carter says.

She notes that they have some donation funds to help parents pay off their lunch debt, but those funds are not enough to help everyone.

Moore argues her bill would alleviate financial strain on districts and their families.

Despite tough revenue forecasts in the upcoming fiscal year, she hopes Governor John Carney will include it in his next proposed budget.

Katherine McDaniel is the director of the school-based health program at Nemours, and says hunger can present itself in many ways in children.

“When kids are provided those healthy meals, number one it instills a good habit from a young age of what choices to make that are healthy because they are seeing it all the time in school. And we also know that if a child is hungry, it affects their school performance, it affects their overall health, and not just child health but their long-term health.”

McDaniel adds that healthy foods are more expensive, so for some low-income kids, the meals they eat at school could be the only healthy meal they get.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.