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By Joyce Westner

When school starts in September, parents may be pleased to know that Massachusetts is funding free school lunches for all students.  This program was started during the height of the pandemic, and according to an article in the Boston Globe, “The $172 million cost of the meals will be largely funded by the new surtax on incomes over $1 million. That means the onerous, senseless, three-tier lunch system we’ve taken as a given for decades — along with the stigma it slapped on our least lucky kids, and the endless red tape with which it burdened their educators — is history.”

The effort to provide free lunches was led by Project Bread, a Boston anti-hunger organization, whose president pointed out that there’s never been means testing for providing text books.  She said the same is true for school buses, although in Winchester families must pay for busing, or ask for a waiver for those who can’t afford the costs.  According to sponsors, one of the issues with free lunches is that students may feel embarrassed to get the lunches for free then don’t take them.  And, “Hungry students don’t learn,” a statement the Boston Globe credits Congressman Jim McGovern, another anti-hunger campaigner. 

Andrew Marron, the Winchester Public Schools Director of Finance and Operations told the Winchester News: "The WPS appreciates Governor Healey and State Legislator's efforts to make universal free school meals permanent. Since the program's trial implementation during COVID, WPS has seen an overall increase in meal utilization rates and encourages all families to participate this coming school year." 

He added two notes on the program:  "While breakfast and lunch will continue to be served at no cost to all students, second meals and a la carte items will be charged to student accounts at existing prices."  And, "Even though meals will be free for all, it is very important for families to complete the household Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals for the 2023-2024 school year. [They] can view and complete the application here: https://www.winchesterps.org/free-reduced. We strongly encourage ALL families to submit this form as it allows us to establish eligibility for state benefits, waive transportation fees for those who qualify, and serve families most effectively." 

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