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Maine Senate Unanimously Supports Free School Meals Legislation

School lunch rules may be getting more flexible.

On Monday, the State Senate gave unanimous initial approval to legislation that would make all school meals free to any student.

It’s not often that a measure with a large projected cost - in this case $34 million dollars a year - gets unanimous support. It would direct the state to pay for school-based meals during the period in which the federal government continues to pick up the cost of meals provided to students receiving free or reduced lunch. Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash sponsored the bill.

“No child should have to go to school hungry let alone be expected to learn on an empty stomach that we know too many of our kids don’t have access to reliable and nutritional food on a regular basis,” Jackson says.

Augusta Republican Matt Pouliot, on of 30 senators who supported the measure, recounted that as a child, he got free school lunch as his mother worked two jobs to support the family. He says kids that receive free or subsidized meals are still stigmatized today.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.