The White House announced that it plans to work with Congress to expand access to free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032 as a first step toward creating a pathway to universal school meals. The plan was outlined among other steps in the White House’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health one day before the Biden administration is to convene a conference on the topic. Ahead of the gathering, President Biden has set an ambitious goal to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 to reduce the number of Americans with diet-related diseases.

The White House also announced support for expanding the Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program, which provided benefits to families of more than 36 million children to pay for groceries during summer 2021.

Recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows food insecurity among children decreased across race and ethnicity between 2020 and 2021 when pandemic-era universal school meal waivers were first in place.

After the congressional provision expired June 30, an independent Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition and Health composed of professors, advocates and food industry executives was among those advising the White House to bring back universal school meals.

Days before the pandemic-era meal waivers were set to expire, Congress passed the bipartisan Keep Kids Fed Act, which extended some waivers but not universal school meals. Bill co-sponsor Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, said on the House floor that the pending legislation at the time would bring school meal programs back to “regular order.”

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