There’s an urgent need to ensure that charter schools are accessible to all students and promote equity across school systems.
The USDA estimates that there are 13 million students in this country that live in “food insecure” households and the only meal they get each day may come from school. While demographics vary from state to state, national data shows that charter school students tend to be from traditionally underserved backgrounds: 36% of charter schools are considered high-poverty; nearly 60% of charter school students are Black or Hispanic.
In the early weeks of the COVID pandemic, food insecurity rates were double for Black and Hispanic families as they were for White families. As the country continues to grapple with the pandemic, nearly 1 in 4 children, or 18 million, struggle with hunger. In a country with so many children dependent on school for the nutrition they need, charter schools have been and must continue to be part of the solution. Our new resource on food services provides insight on how charter school laws and authorizers can help charter schools overcome the challenges sometimes associated with providing school meals, and thus increase accessibility and equity.
While charter schools are often referred to as schools of choice, it is hard to imagine that families who face hunger have real options if their choice boils down to whether a school provides meals or not. Parents—whether charter or traditional—shouldn’t have to choose between a good school or the meals their child needs. That is why it is exciting to see that legislation has been introduced in Congress to make free lunches available to all public school students regardless of income. But as everyone knows, politics on the Hill can be fickle and so it’s not clear if the bill will pass or not.
Regardless, charter schools and charter school authorizers can and should consider their role in promoting accessibility and equity by making sure school meals are not a barrier for families.
Read the full resource, Access & Equity in Authorizing: Food Services now, and check out our Checklist Resource for authorizers reviewing charter school food services plans and our comprehensive overview of Federal Food Services Regulations & Requirements for Charter School Authorizers.