State Reps. Aull and Lewis and Sen. Chambers Armstrong unveil bipartisan bills to expand free student meals, help farmers

via press release

FRANKFORT – Following months of meetings with stakeholders and other legislators, state Representatives Chad Aull and Scott Lewis and state Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong have filed legislation designed to help more students eat meals for free while incentivizing schools to purchase more Kentucky-grown agricultural products.

“What we are calling the Kentucky Proud Match Program would go a long way toward addressing childhood hunger while forging a stronger bond between our schools and farmers,” said Rep. Aull of Lexington.  “With the state’s financial assistance, we can ensure that nearly every school will be able to participate and that ‘farm to table’ will become more of a reality in our school cafeterias.  I’m proud to work with Senator Chambers Armstrong, Rep. Scott Lewis and others to have this bill become law.”

“Ensuring every child has access to nutritious meals is more than a matter of public policy; it’s a moral responsibility,” said Senator Chambers Armstrong of Louisville.  “This bill creates a sustainable model where local farmers become integral contributors to our children’s daily nutrition. This initiative serves as a catalyst for stronger community connections and is a step towards building a healthier, hunger-free future for our students and a robust local economy for Kentucky’s farmers.”

“As an educator, I have seen firsthand how effective the school-meal program is at helping students get the nutrition they absolutely need, and that’s why I’m happy to be primary co-sponsor in the House,” said Rep. Lewis of Hartford.  “While Representative Aull and Senator Chambers Armstrong and I belong to different parties, we are united when it comes to addressing childhood hunger and helping our farmers thrive.”

Under their legislation – which can be read here – the Kentucky Department of Education would provide school districts 33 cents per meal if the districts are enrolled in the federal Community Eligibility Provision program.

Kentucky was among the first 10 states to take part in CEP after Congress first authorized it in 2010, and now more than 500,000 students across the commonwealth, and 20 million across the country, take advantage of it every school day.  Schools enrolled in CEP provide meals to all students, regardless of income, at no cost to their families.

“Most Kentucky schools are already using CEP, but we believe the state needs to be a better financial partner in this effort,” Senator Chambers Armstrong said.  “For many children, a school cafeteria is the only place they regularly get nutritious meals, and studies are clear that students who are not hungry are more likely to do well academically.”

Rep. Aull said incorporating the “Kentucky Proud” program into the legislation was the result of bipartisan discussions with other legislators.

Their bill encourages schools to participate in the Kentucky Proud School Match Program, which would establish a pathway for schools to identify Kentucky-grown farm products that meet pricing and quality standards.  “Ideally, we would love to see a sizable portion of every school meal come from a Kentucky farm,” he said.

Their identical bills will be considered during the ongoing legislative session, which began Jan. 2nd and will conclude on April 15th.