Why More Arkansas Students Enjoy School Meals at No Cost this Fall

Sep 1, 2023 | Blog

Delve in SB477: Impacting 49,000 Arkansas Children

There was some good news being shared by child nutrition directors at school districts all across the state as students returned to school this fall – those students who qualify for reduced-price school meals would be able to receive school breakfast and lunch at no charge! The estimated 49,000 students qualifying for reduced-price meals would no longer be required to pay 30 cents for breakfast or 40 cents for lunch, saving a typical reduced-price eligible family with 3 kids about $374 annually.

This important change is the result of two key hunger relief-focused measures shepherded through the 2023 Arkansas General Assembly earlier in the year by Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy), who was able to convince 33 of his fellow Senators and 62 members of the Arkansas House to cosponsor his Senate Bill 477, which passed unanimously and is now Act 656. This measure, in addition to a companion bill also sponsored by Sen. Dismang and passed unanimously (now Act 657), work together to create a means by which the state will cover the cost of the reduced-price meal student copayment so all 303,000 or more Arkansas students who quality for either free or reduced-price school meals will receive those nutritious breakfasts and lunches at no charge, relieving them of a daily financial burden and removing a major barrier to school meal access for many students who rely on those meals for the fuel they need to succeed in school.  Research shows that increased school meal participation leads to improved behavior and concentration in the classroom, improved attendance, and even improved test scores.

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance wishes to thank Sen. Dismang for asking us what type of policy changes could substantially move the needle toward food security for hungry Arkansans, and we thank him and his many cosponsors for aggressively supporting measures that will have a lasting impact on students’ health and academic success for years to come.