LANSING, Mich. (WZMQ) – Lawmakers in Michigan’s Capitol wrote dedicated funding into the 2024 fiscal year budget to provide free breakfast and lunch for all public school students. The program set aside $160 million to reinstate the free meal program that took place during the first two years of the pandemic.
Two months into the program, the Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations with the Department of Education, Diane Golzynski, said administrators and teachers have already been speaking up about improvements in student engagement. She said the program will ensure children have access to great, nutritious meals while they’re at school, so they can focus on learning and not on hunger.
Golzynsi said that during the pandemic, schools started providing meals to all students. In 2022, that program was discontinued, and the federal income-based program was reinstated. She said that as a result, administrators and teachers began advocating for students as they noticed fewer taking school-provided meals, and more going hungry. Now that the program has been reinstated, Golzynski said the Department of Education has already heard about an increase in engagement from students.
“Well, we know that when kids eat at school, they have higher attendance rates, higher graduation rates, higher test scores. Which then leads to higher lifelong earning in their career of their choice.” Golzynski said “We know that the participation is up the most in our middle schools and high schools right now, which really demonstrates that taking away the stigma of having to pay for a meal when you couldn’t afford it makes a big difference for our students.”
Golzynski said the funding for similar income-based programs are all assigned based on family income forms. The forms are used to help assign additional education benefits like paraprofessionals for reading or math, and after-school assistance, as well as summer EBT benefits. She emphasized the importance of the forms, and said without having those forms turned in, the school and families cannot qualify for those additional benefits. The Department of Education said it’s important to make sure your child’s school has the most updated version on file, no matter your income.
Currently, the program is only a one-year budget item. Golzynski said she hopes that when legislators return to the Capitol next year, they begin work on legislation to secure the funding that would allow them to continue the program.