Massachusetts has joined a growing number of states in passing legislation to grant free meals to all public school kids.
The new program was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Maura Healey (D) as part of an overdue budget of nearly $56 billion, which also included spending on child care, workforce development, housing, public transit and other areas.
From that budget, approximately $172 million in permanent funding will be put toward free school meals for students in kindergarten through high school.
Rebecca Wood, who has an 11-year-old, told WBZ-TV in Boston that there were times in the past when she wasn’t sure if she could afford school lunch for her kid.
“It’s awful,” Wood said. “She’d come home and say, ‘Mom, you have to give money to the cafeteria again.’ I didn’t want her to know we were struggling, and she had strangers telling her that we were.”
Wood added that the high cost of housing and medical bills made it tougher to save money. But the new meals program will save families about $1,200 per student each year, according to state Senate President Karen Spilka.
Massachusetts is now the eighth state to adopt a permanent universal meals program. The other states are California, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Vermont, Michigan and New Mexico.