Article submitted by the Nevada Department of Agriculture
The State of Nevada has invested $75 million for free school meals in Nevada schools operating the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) this upcoming academic year. Approved by the Interim Finance Committee on June 21, 2022, American Rescue Plan Act funds will be used to continue pandemic recovery and ensure students have food to eat by providing free school breakfast and lunch.
“Between distance learning over the last two years and economic impacts affecting families, it is important to support parents and students any way we can,” said Governor Steve Sisolak. “We know students can’t learn on an empty stomach. This is one way we can help make sure students have access to healthy meals at school, and provide some relief to parents.”
Governor Sisolak committed to free school meals for students during his State of the State speech earlier this year as a way to address food security in Nevada and provide assistance to children and their parents. Studies have shown that students who have access to nutritious foods perform better in school.
School meals have been free since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 through U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers. Prior to the pandemic, the only meals provided free or at a reduced rate were at schools operating the NSLP to students whose families met eligibility requirements. As the U.S. transitioned to pandemic recovery efforts, the waivers were not renewed at a national level for all students. Governor Sisolak, Nevada Department of Education (NDE) and the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) recognized this gap and worked throughout the spring to build a program that would ensure students receive free school meals for one more academic year. This funding was presented and approved by the Legislature on Tuesday.
“No child should worry when their next meal will come,” said NDA Director Jennifer Ott. “Children have depended on meals in schools for the last two years, and it is crucial to give families more time to recover from the pandemic and the current economic conditions.”
As part of the process, it is important for parents to fill out the Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility form when registering their child for school. This is a critical step to ensure that Nevada receives all the federal funding and services available to support our students this next school year and into the future.
“We are grateful this funding will provide each and every one of our students another year of learning without the worry of where their next meal will come from,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert. “Addressing food insecurity among our students and communities is a vital piece to ensuring they can achieve their full potential. I encourage all families to fill out the Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility form to support and strengthen this program.”
Free school meals is part of a series of food security improvement programs initiated by the NDA. Other programs have included $500,000 going towards improving infrastructure and food accessibility, $400,000 towards food accessibility for food insecure senior populations, and $2 million toward the Home Feeds Nevada agriculture food purchase program. To learn more about food security programs and find other resources, visit agri.nv.gov.
About the Nevada Department of Agriculture
The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) mission is to preserve, protect and promote Nevada’s agriculture. The department has 225 dedicated employees providing services in its five divisions, Administrative Services, Animal Industry, Measurement Standards, Food and Nutrition, and Plant Health and Compliance. The department’s $288 million budget facilitates regulatory and administrative work in agriculture and food manufacturing industries, protecting public and environmental health and worker safety, and providing food distribution and oversight for the United States Department of Agriculture’s school and community nutrition programs.