A new budget proposal could bring free meals to public school students across the state.
Some school districts and parents are chomping at the bit over Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal calling for free meals for all of Michigan’s public school students.
“Everybody I talk to, this is like music to their ears right now,” Food Service Director, Tim Klenow, admits.
Klenow is the Food Service Director for three school districts in Manistee County: Bear Lake, Onekama and Kaleva Norman Dickinson (KND). All three schools have been able to serve free meals for students over the past four years thanks to a state grant.
“The program that we use now is a four-year grant, and this is year four of that,” Klenow acknowledges. “One of the problems with that grant, it allows us to serve meals for free, but it doesn’t entirely cover the whole cost of the meal.”
Klenow explains that if Governor Whitmer’s proposal goes through then the whole meal will be covered.
“This is good timing because the sooner the better. It will give us a sense of security on planning for the fall and if this does pass it will take effect in the next school year,” Klenow explains.
He says there’s still hope among food service directors if the proposal doesn’t pass. The USDA is also making a proposal to change the eligibility guidelines to make more students eligible for free meals.
“Which could allow half the country to be free and maybe take some of the pressure off the states to go universally free,” Klenow describes.
Klenow says if the budget proposal passes it will greatly help parents, school districts and school nutrition programs.
“I along with every other food service director in school [are] really hoping this passes. There’s no negative to this whole proposal. Everybody wins,” Klenow states.
State lawmakers must have the state’s 2024 budget voted on by fall.