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Delaware legislature enters final stretch of session, acts on two school meal bills

School lunch display at Lewes Elementary School in celebration of School Lunch Hero Day on May 3, 2024 in Lewes, DE.
Sarah Petrowich
Delaware Public Media
School lunch display at Lewes Elementary School in celebration of School Lunch Hero Day on May 3, 2024 in Lewes, DE.

A year-long school meal pricing saga begins to wind down as State Rep. Sherae’a Moore’s (D-Middletown) third iteration of legislation related to affordability of school meals passes in the House.

While Moore’s initial legislation carried an annual $40 million fiscal note to cover free school breakfasts and lunches for all Delaware public school students, the final version is expected to only cost the state around $250,000 annually.

The new bill would require all public schools to offer only students who qualify for a reduced-price meal a free breakfast and lunch every school day.

“This bill takes a step in the right direction to ensuring that we are addressing and understanding the proper essentials, such as nutrition, for cognitive development [and] academic achievement," Moore said.

The bill’s co-sponsor State Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford) says the bill is an important bipartisan effort to help ensure student’s basic nutritional needs are met despite financial insecurity.

“We are able to help the most needed — the kids whose families are on reduced lunch — and making sure that they have proper nutrition and making sure that that’s not a barrier that they have to overcome once they get to school," Shupe said.

The Senate unanimously passed an additional bill that prohibits Delaware public schools from restricting student participation in extracurriculars due to an outstanding meal debt.

Under the bill, local education agencies, including charter schools, may not prohibit a student from participating in band, clubs, homecoming, interscholastic sports, prom, graduation or student government if they have an outstanding debt for unpaid school meals.

"To think that we would prevent a student from attending these things, simply because they have not paid for all of their school meals, is really sad. And I'm sure a lot of this is because the families simply cannot afford it, and those students shouldn't be punished for poverty or struggling financially," State Rep. Eric Morrison (D-Glasgow) said during the bill's initial hearing in January.

If Moore’s bill is ultimately passed in the Senate and both pieces of legislation receive Gov. John Carney’s signature, the two bills will take effect this upcoming school year.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
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