In an era where the rich keep getting richer and the divide between the elite and the average Joe seems to be getting wider by the day, Massachusetts has taken a revolutionary step towards narrowing that gap. And they’re doing it by ensuring that the future of the nation – our kids – don’t go to school hungry.
An astounding 26% of kids in Massachusetts deal with food insecurity, and if you think this issue affects all equally, think again. Disproportionately, Black and Hispanic communities bear the brunt, a situation worsened by the pandemic. Enter Massachusetts’ game-changing decision: A 4% tax on the state’s top earners, ensuring every student can access free breakfast and lunch.
Rep. Jim McGovern hit the nail on the head when he proclaimed, “No child in Massachusetts will ever have to wonder how to get through the school day on an empty stomach.” But the journey to this win was a collective effort. Grassroots campaigns, labor unions, community organizations, and religious groups rallied together to amplify the voices of the many against a system that has often prioritized the few.
One might wonder about the revenue this tax will churn up. A whopping $1 billion will flow into the state’s budget for 2024, with more than half earmarked for education, from those free school lunches to expanded childcare access and financial aid for college students. Now that’s what we call putting money where the mouth is!
Gov. Maura Healey tagged the move as an investment not just in nutrition but in removing unnecessary stress from our schools and homes. The impact of hunger on a child’s ability to learn is profound. From repeating grades to developmental challenges and even behavioral problems, food insecurity is a heavy backpack no child should have to shoulder.
Carinne Deeds from the American Youth Policy Forum once remarked that a child deprived of nutrition is a child barred from reaching their fullest potential. It’s 2023, and it’s high time other states and the federal government took note.
Case in point, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s call to action. She’s championing universal free school meals for K-12 students nationwide. “In one of the richest nations in the world, no child should ever go hungry,” she asserted. It’s not just about food; it’s about justice, equity, and investing in the future.
Massachusetts has set the stage. Let’s see who follows suit. The ball is now in Congress’s court. Let’s ensure every child in America can focus on their ABCs and 123s without the pang of hunger holding them back.