November 1, 2023

1.3 Million Michigan Students Can Receive Free School Breakfast and Lunch

Michigan Department of Education Press Release LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced today that 100 percent of the public schools participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs are providing free meals to students statewide for the 2023-2024 school year.

Through the Michigan School Meals program, all public schools in Michigan servicing pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and participating in the USDA School Nutrition Programs were eligible. As of last week, all public schools are using these programs to allow students to eat one breakfast and one lunch per day for free, with more than 1.3 million students in the state having access.

“Supporting basic needs helps our students be the best learners possible,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Feeding our children while in our care supports Goal 3 of Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan, to improve the health, safety, and wellness of all children.”

The Michigan School Meals program was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer for fiscal year 2024 and provides lunch and breakfast at no cost to students. It is estimated that this new state program will save families at least $850 annually.

“The State Board of Education feels strongly that all children deserve the best, most healthy learning environments possible,” said State Board of Education President Dr. Pamela Pugh, “and these environments include clean air, clean water, and nutritious meals for all.”

Michigan students received free school meals during the pandemic when the USDA approved MDE’s waiver request to federal income-based regulations. The income-based regulation waiver ended in the summer of 2022, and MDE worked with the state legislature and governor to find a way to fund universal meals again after the one-school-year hiatus.

“This program will help children eat better and more frequently,” Dr. Rice said. “We saw the effect of having universal meals March 2020 through 2022, then not having universal meals in the 2022-23 school year. It took a pandemic to help some in the state to realize the value of free meals.” 

All school meals are required to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which include specific age group portion sizes, and limits on sodium, calories, saturated fat and trans fats. School lunches are required to serve a lean meat or meat alternate, whole grain, fruit, vegetable, and low-fat milk. 

“Meals at school provide three purposes: to ensure no child goes hungry; to prepare children for learning; and to teach children what a healthy meal looks like,” says Melanie Brummeler, interim assistant director of MDE’s Office of Health and Nutrition Services and a registered dietitian nutritionist.

The Michigan School Meals program works together with 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms to invest in Michigan children and agriculture. 10 Cents a Meal is Michigan's local food incentive program that provides extra dollars for School Nutrition Programs that purchase and serve fresh Michigan produce and dried beans to students.

Visit Michigan School Meals Program for more information or learn more about Michigan’s 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms