Support HB 2471: Healthy School Meals for All!

Ensure all Illinois schools are hunger-free, and supporting our kids to grow, learn, and thrive

School Meals Matter for Students and Families!

  • Giving all children access to free, healthy school meals improves their health3,5,6 well-being5, and academic performance,3 and reduces stigma associated with qualifying for free or reduced-price meals.3

  • Black and Latine/x children are twice as likely to experience food insecurity as white children.7 Making free school meals available to all children can reduce disparities in health and education outcomes between these groups, and advance racial equity.7

  • Minnesota and Colorado joined California and Maine in recently passing permanent universal school meal policies, and Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and 18 other states are working on passing similar legislation.17

Background: School Meals in Illinois

  • Illinois Students Depend on School Meals| Before the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of 1,016,410 Illinois students received lunches through the National School Lunch Program, and 440,302 received breakfasts through the School Breakfast Program.8 Families’ need for healthy food assistance has only increased since then.15
  • School Meals are Healthy | School meals must meet federal nutrition standards, which are in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. They contain nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or nonfat milk.11 Many students rely on school meals for their daily food intake, and research shows that students who eat school meals eat more healthy foods than students who don’t eat school meals!16
  • More Students Need Access to Affordable School Meals | Illinois has a child food insecurity rate of 11.3%, and 21% of the 323,740 food insecure children in Illinois in 2020 were not eligible for free or reduced-price school meal programs2 due to outdated income eligibility guidelines.3
  • Free COVID-19 Related School Meals Ended Last Year|Federal school meal waivers that kept K-12 students fed during the COVID-19 pandemic expired in June 2022,1 putting thousands of Illinois children at risk of not having enough food to live a healthy and active life.2

The USDA supports access to healthy school meals for all students:

Sources: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19.

School Meals Matter for Schools!

Free healthy school meals for all relieves schools of the administrative burden and school meal debt associated with operating eligibility-based federal meal programs.3 The average annual school meal debt in Illinois is $170.52 per child, equating to $15.5 million in total Illinois meal debt.18

Illinois Schools Need More Funding to Feed Students

  • Illinois Free Lunch and Breakfast Program funding has been cut from $26.3 million in FY 2023 down to $9 million since FY 2015,9,10 and schools are only receiving ~$0.02 per free meal served, far less than the $0.15 currently required in Illinois statute.12 $9 million is the minimum maintenance of effort level required of Illinois to receive federal reimbursement. Illinois must do more to feed our kids!
  • The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a federal program that enables schools and school districts with a high proportion of students from low-income families to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.12 1,823 schools in Illinois currently use CEP.13 Approximately 43% of Illinois schools likely eligible for CEP do not participate,4 potentially due to inadequate federal reimbursement to eligible schools with lower percentages of identified students.14

The Healthy School Meals for All Bill will:


Reduce stigma too often associated with eligibility-based school meal programs

Supporting any Illinois school to provide a free breakfast and lunch to all students who need and want one

Maximize federal funding for school meals in Illinois

Supporting Illinois schools to adopt federal programs that provide the highest federal school meal reimbursement rates, such as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

Utilize state funding to support Illinois schools to

provide free school meals

Providing State funding to schools to make up the

difference in costs not covered by federal reimbursements

Improve nutrition security for students

Supporting the Illinois State Board of Education, schools, and districts across the state to offer high-quality, nourishing, and local foods in school meals

Organizations that support HB 2471 include (list in formation):

  • Action for Healthy Kids
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Chicago Food Policy Action Council
  • Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI)
  • Greater Chicago Food Depository
  • Illinois Alliance to Promote Opportunities for Health
  • Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA)
  • Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Illinois Education Association (IEA)
  • Illinois Farm to School Network/Seven Generations Ahead
  • Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT)
  • Illinois Public Health Institute
  • Illinois State Alliance of YMCAs
  • Mission Readiness, Illinois