All Kids Should Graduate Free From Lunch Debt

One Tennessee community makes it possible for this year’s graduates

Andy Spears
2 min readMay 20, 2024
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

School lunch debt should not be a thing.

Sadly, in many communities, students cannot receive their high school diploma if they don’t pay all obligations back to the school district — including any accrued school meal debt.

Which begs the question: Why do we have school lunch debt? Why not just feed all kids breakfast and lunch every day?

While some states are moving in this direction, it’s not yet universal.

However, one Tennessee community stepped up to cancel the school lunch debt of all graduating seniors — ensuring that an obligation for a charged meal wouldn’t prevent students from receiving their diplomas.

In the case of Tennessee, it would cost just over $700 million to provide free school meals to all kids every year.

To put that in perspective, the state gave $500 million to the Tennessee Titans to pay for a portion of a $2 billion+…



Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .