The Crucial Role of No-Cost School Lunch for Healthy Kids

No-cost school lunch programs benefit students and families by providing essential nutrition for healthy development.

By bonneville on February 1, 2024
Girl with School Lunch Tray
Photo: American Heart Association

This article about no-cost school lunches is sponsored by American Heart Association.

American Heart Association logo with "you're the cure" text

Here at FM100.3, we love celebrating Valentine’s Day, but we also celebrate February as American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, taking the lives of 2,200 people each day. The good news is that 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and action. Online and on the air, we will be sharing tips and information about better heart health. 

In this article, we break down the nutritional benefits of no-cost school lunch programs for students.

Introduction: Eliminating student hunger 

School Cafeteria Staff

Hunger affects Utahns from all backgrounds, and no one is as vulnerable as our children. Food insecurity impacts nearly 15% of households with children in Utah, meaning there is not enough food in the home for every family member to live a healthy life. 

Students face barriers to learning when hungry, and families facing school meal debt add to their daily struggles. By addressing food insecurity in schools through a no-cost lunch program, students have more opportunities to develop a healthy mind and body. 

The impact of nutrition on learning

The food children consume plays a crucial role in shaping their mental abilities. Research consistently highlights the impact of balanced meals on academic performance, reinforcing that a well-nourished mind is better equipped for learning. 

Students who consume essential nutrients show improved memory, attention, and overall cognitive abilities. Moreover, eating a balanced diet is shown to enhance students’ concentration and focus, directly influencing a student’s academic achievements. 

By integrating proper nutrition into the daily lives of school-age children, they can achieve academic success. 

Addressing food insecurity

As food prices remain incredibly high and too many families struggle to feed their children or pay school meal debts, school meals at no cost provide financial relief to families and reduce food insecurity. Families can focus on other basic needs when students have school meals at no cost.

Health benefits of no-cost school lunch

School Lunch Tray

School lunch programs at no-cost emerged as influential contributors to fostering healthier lifestyles among students. By providing nutritious meals, these programs address essential aspects of a child’s physical well-being, including growth, immune system support, and energy levels. 

The positive impact extends beyond the school environment as students develop lifelong habits that promote well-being. As no-cost school lunch programs bridge the gap in nutritional disparities, they become instrumental in shaping a healthier, more resilient generation with the potential for long-term positive health outcomes.

Accessible nutrition reduces stigma

Students who qualify for no-cost or reduced-price meals currently face stigma, which can discourage students and families from participating. But when all students have access to the same services, it reduces stigma and allows them to benefit from school meals. 

Moreover, the accessibility of no-cost school lunches ensures that children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds have equal opportunities to receive the nutritional support necessary for their overall health. 

Challenges and solutions 

The American Heart Association, Utahns Against Hunger, and the Utah Parent Teacher Association invite the public to join the effort to guarantee more public school students have permanent access to healthy school meals at no cost to families. To expand school meal access for Utah students, the state could eliminate the reduced-price lunch category, and expand those students into no-cost meals, relieving hunger and the financial burden for those struggling but that don’t qualify for no-cost meals currently.


Together, we can lift our children out of hunger at school. With current standards, school meals are the healthiest option for students. School meal programs ensure all students can thrive, grow, and learn rather than struggle with hunger. The Utah Legislature can reduce the burden on families struggling with inflation by helping them become food secure.

You can help students and families this year. Visit You’re the Cure’s website for more information and ways to get involved.

More about heart health: 

This is a sponsored article brought to you by FM100 in conjunction with the advertiser. The advertiser paid a fee to promote this article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of FM100, its parent company, or its staff.

Around the site