The Andover School Committee asked Gov. Maura Healey to support a bill co-sponsored by state Reps. Tram Nguyen (D-Andover) and Frank Moran (D-Lawrence) that would make free school lunches permanently free.

The measure was implemented during the coronavirus pandemic and extended last June through the end of the 2022-23 school year by former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. The pending legislation would make the universal free lunch program permanent. Nearly 54,000 additional public students were taking advantage of school lunches when Baker extended the program, up 42.3 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

Last June, state lawmakers set aside $110 million in the state budget to continue the program for another year. The school committee unanimously approved sending a letter in support of the legislation at Thursday’s meeting.

“Research shows that a well-nourished child is a better learner, test-taker, and participant in school. Students who have free and nutritious meals available at school reduce the financial strain on food budgets at home,” Andover Public Schools said in a statement Monday. If the bill is passed, all students will have access to healthy meals, no matter their social or economic status.

The legislation making the program permanent was filed in January by Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill and Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett.

Photo: The cafeteria at West Elementary School (Dave Copeland/Andover News).

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