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Free Arizona school meal program set to begin in January

AP Photo/Mary Esch, File
AP Photo/Mary Esch, File

Arizona schools chief Kathy Hoffman says the state’s Department of Education will allocate $6.75 million to school lunch programs, waiving fees for all children who qualify for reduced-price meals.

It’ll take effect in January and continue through the end of the 2023/2024 school year. The agency says it’ll apply to thousands of students don’t already qualify for federally funded meals.

“Ensuring no child in Arizona goes hungry is not a political issue. In fact, we have a moral obligation as a state to do so,” says Hoffman. “I strongly believe that school meals should be universally free across our country because students cannot learn effectively if one of their most basic needs is not met. While we continue to fight for universal free meals, funding like this will help remove barriers for families and students across Arizona. And I urge our legislature to make this funding permanent once relief dollars expire.”

Currently a family of four in Arizona earning between about $36,000 and $51,000 qualifies for reduced-price lunch and those making less qualify for the National Student Lunch Program. Families will still have to apply for the program.

It’s Hoffman’s last official act as superintendent of public instruction after losing reelection to Tom Horne.