Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

August 7, 2023


Today, Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) joined Connecticut leaders including Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene M. Russell-Tucker as they announced the state’s expansion of free school meal programs for the 2023-24 school year. This new expansion will connect thousands of students with access to free, nutritious school breakfasts and lunches across the state, helping improve student health and learning, as studies show children who struggle with hunger experience more challenges in the educational system.

Sens. Looney and Anwar are especially encouraged by this announcement because they have advocated for free school meal expansion since the end of expanded federal support programs in late 2022. In December of 2022, Sen. Anwar joined advocated at the Capitol calling for expanded free lunch programs and connecting families in need with available aid programs; in February of 2023, he joined advocates in the Children’s Committee testifying in support of expanded school meal programs for all students. Both Senators were strong advocates of expanded school meals and introduced legislation supporting that goal; they are strongly encouraged by today’s expanded access to services.

“In the world of ‘Leave It To Beaver,’ the kids would come home from school and their mother would have snacks prepared for them if they were hungry. There was never the thought that they would go to school hungry, but the reality is that was not life for many people then and certainly isn’t now,” said Sen. Looney. We know many students struggle and are reliant on meals they get in school – they’re sometimes the most substantive meals children get in the day. They are a lifeline, not just a convenience. That’s why we also have to be concerned about summer programs when school is not in session. During that two and a half month gap, there is often a food desert in many communities. In order to make sure we are providing what we need to provide to sustain learning, I am proud of these investments. Speaker Ritter and I were very happy to work on this together and we’d like to thank the Governor for his work on this as well.”

“A hungry child cannot effectively learn,” said Sen. Anwar. “It’s with that knowledge that I am proud that our state is supporting more than 100,000 students this year by providing them with free meals. Nearly 180,000 students will be able to access free breakfasts, while more than 13,000 students will be eligible for free lunches through these new changes. Today, Connecticut reaches out to children in need and makes sure they are better taken care of. I am encouraged by these advances and will seek more ways for us to build on this success in years to come.”

“This investment ensures that each student begins their day with a nourishing meal, fostering learning and growth,” Governor Lamont said. “Additionally, removing the family portion of the cost of lunch for students eligible for reduced-price meals means more money in their pockets for other essential needs. By ensuring access to nutritious meals, we empower our students to excel academically and in all facets of life.”

Under the plan announced today, the Lamont administration will invest $16 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to support school meals in multiple ways, including support for students at non-Community Eligibility Provision schools participating in the federal School Breakfast Program to receive no-cost breakfast meals, which will benefit an estimated 177,243 students in 114 school districts. Students eligible for reduced-price meals in non-CEP schools participating in the federal National School Lunch Program will be able to receive lunch at no cost, with approximately 128 districts and 13,197 children benefitting. This funding was allocated in the most recent state budget passed by legislators in June.

According to the Food Research and Action Center, school meals provide critical benefits to student health and well-being, especially for low-income students. Research has shown that free- or reduced-price school lunches can reduce food insecurity, obesity rates and poor health among children. Additionally, school meals provide more opportunities for students to effectively learn and grow; students experiencing hunger are more likely to experience behavioral, emotional or mental health issues as well as academic ones, and children experiencing hunger are more likely to repeat grades or receive special services.