(WHTM) – All Pennsylvania students will have access to free school breakfast for the 2023-24 school year as part of the state budget signed on Thursday, according to Senators Lindsey M. Williams (D-Allegheny) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

According to Governor Josh Shapiro’s office, the budget includes a $46.5 million increase to provide universal free breakfast for 1.7 million public school students. The budget also allocates funding for 22,000 students to receive free lunches if they qualify through the National School Lunch Program.

According to a 2021 Feeding America report, more than 325,000 children (12.2%) experience food insecurity. More than 25% of children in Philadelphia experience food insecurity.

“Students will be heading back to school in the next few weeks and knowing that they will be able to start every day ready to learn with a healthy breakfast is a huge relief for families and schools,” said Senator Williams. “School meals are just as essential to learning as textbooks and pencils– students can’t learn when they’re hungry. I’m incredibly glad to see this program funded for the 2023-24 school year as we work to make this cornerstone of food security for students permanent.”

“Starting the day with a complete, nutritious meal sets students up for success in the classroom,” said Senator Schwank. “So many kids have benefitted from the federal funding for school breakfast over the past few years. It would have been wrong to roll back universal breakfast, considering how many of our students have come to rely on these meals. I’m incredibly proud that Pennsylvania has stepped up to continue to provide breakfast for our students in this year’s budget. I give a ton of credit to Gov. Shapiro for making this item a priority and delivering for Pennsylvania’s students.”

The budget allocates over $10 billion for K-12 public education funding, according to the Governor’s office. This includes a $567 million increase in basic education funding, $100 million for school-based mental health counselors and resources, and a $50 million increase in special education funding.