Schools that serve free breakfast and lunch to all kids spend up to 67 cents less per meal than schools that don’t, according to a new analysis of USDA data. The findings could bolster the case for universal meals post-pandemic.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday announced it would extend waivers allowing schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to all children through the end of September, maintaining what has become a de facto universal school meals program. This is the fourth time these waivers have been extended—a sign of the prolonged disruption that the ongoing public health crisis has wrought on nutrition programs.

Anti-hunger advocates and nutrition officials applauded the move, and made renewed calls on policymakers to keep school breakfast and lunch free even after the Covid-19 public health emergency ends. The bulk of their argument is that doing so would increase access to nutritious food, reduce stigma, and cut down paperwork for schools—advantages that are all the more welcome during a crisis that has led to increased unemployment and food insecurity. Now, newly published research is also finding that universal free meals could also help schools save money.

Read the full article about universal school meals by Jessica Fu at The Counter.