New law guarantees better access to free school meals

BOSTON (AP) – Students will have better access to school meals under a bill signed by Governor Charlie Baker this week.

The new law requires schools or school districts to implement a free and universal breakfast and lunch for all students if the majority of students in the school meet low income criteria.

The new law also prohibits school employees or volunteers from publicly identifying a student when payment for a meal has not been received. Denying a meal to a student as punishment for bad behavior or discarding a meal already served due to a student’s unresolved meal debt is also prohibited.

Schools will also be prevented from denying a student or his or her siblings the opportunity to participate in non-paid extracurricular activities due to a meal debt; prohibit a student from receiving grades, transcripts, report cards or graduating because of a meal debt; or require a parent or guardian to pay additional fees or interest charges in excess of the amount owed for meals.

“This legislation is another way to ensure that all children in the Commonwealth have access to healthy meals when they are in school,” Baker said after signing the bill on Monday.

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