ATLANTA — Free school meals could make a comeback, with a new bill providing free lunch and breakfast to all students enrolled in a public school in Georgia, introduced in the state House on Feb. 21.
According to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, food insecurity continues to plague families in the metro area. The organization has reported a 40% increase in families visiting food pantries over the past year. However, relief may be on the horizon for struggling families thanks to a new Georgia bill.
The "Healthy Start" Bill, also known as House Bill 510, was introduced by State Representative Imani Barnes. If passed, the bill would provide free breakfast and lunch to all students enrolled in a Georgia public school from kindergarten through 12th grade. Additionally, the bill would allow for Georgia-grown foods to be used in school cafeterias.
Representative Barnes is optimistic about the bill's chances of passing, but it must first go before the House Education Committee.
"Our first step is to get in front of the committee to present it," Barnes said.
She hopes to present the bill before "Crossover Day" at the Capitol, which is the last day for a bill to pass the chamber where it was introduced.
The bill has the potential to make a significant impact on struggling families in Georgia. With free breakfast and lunch provided at school, parents may have one less financial burden to worry about. Additionally, the use of Georgia-grown foods in school cafeterias would support local farmers and promote healthier eating habits among students.
Food insecurity in the U.S. has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many families struggling to put food on the table. The Healthy Start bill aims to provide relief to these families and ensure that Georgia students have access to healthy meals while at school.
As the bill makes its way through the legislative process, Rep. Barnes said she's hopeful that it will pass and provide much-needed relief to families in the metro Atlanta area and throughout Georgia.