Lots of kids look forward to lunchtime at school.
That's because their families don’t make enough to afford it - but they make too much to be on free lunch. An effort in the Maryland legislature is trying to change that.
"I want all of my peers to get the same rights as me," said Fabian Adri, a student at Western High School in Baltimore City.
Adri was joined by high schoolers from across the state in Annapolis Wednesday night at a rally to urge lawmakers to make school meals free - no matter how much money is in their families' checking accounts.
Free meals were available for all students during the pandemic - that stopped when federal funding ended.
As a city school student, her lunch is covered - same deal for all her classmates. But not every kid in Maryland has a full plate, fully covered.
"This is our top tier issue for this year, to make sure kids get fed," said Laura Hale, Director of Government Relations for the American Heart Association.
The AHA organized the rally in Annapolis.
Hale says as the legislature mulls over its budget, putting food on plates should be a top goal. The current price tag for the effort is $184 million a year - revisions could bring that number down.
"The real issue is down to dollars and cents, and, can the state make this investment," said Hale. "We’re here tonight to say, yes, they need to.”
A stone’s throw from the state house, the organization set up a table - complete with paper handouts and empty lunch trays - to symbolize the lack of free meals in the state.
"It’s just not a commodity. It’s essential for all students," said Sami Saeed, a high school student who made the journey from Montgomery County.
Saeed tells WMAR-2 News he went months without eating lunch for the entire school day. It affected his focus and - of course - he was hungry.
"Now, it’s really become a burden on my family to try and budget out the money for lunches," Saeed added.
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