New law guarantees greater access to free school meals

BOSTON — Students will have greater access to school meals under a bill signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker this week.

The new law requires schools or school districts to implement universally free breakfast and lunch for all students if a majority of students in the school meet low-income criteria.

The new law also bars school employees or volunteers from publicly identifying a student when payment for a meal hasn’t been received. Denying a student a meal as a form of punishment for bad behavior or disposing of an already served meal because of a student’s unresolved meal debt is also banned.

Schools will also be prevented from denying a student or their sibling the chance to participate in non-fee-based extracurricular activities because of meal debt; prohibiting a student from receiving grades, transcripts, report cards or graduating due to meal debt; or requiring a parent or guardian to pay additional fees or interest costs above the amount owed for meals.

“This legislation is another way we can ensure all children in the commonwealth have access to healthy meals when they are in school,” Baker said after signing the bill on Monday.