Attendees of Angel of Edgewood's Back to School Extravaganza pick up fresh produce at the start of this school year. The event, sponsored by the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity, and Opportunity and the Hispanic Federation Foundation, aimed to provide Hartford families with back-to-school supplies, food, clothing and basic necessities to set them up for success at the start of school. Greg Miller / Connecticut Public

The Committee on Children held a public meeting Tuesday to discuss a series of bills, ranging from expanding school food programs to providing free meals to all students, establishing a children’s grief counseling program and the possibility of creating a state police sting operation unit to help combat online sex abuse of children.

The committee reviewed eight bills. Bills concerning free meal programs (SB 929) and municipal youth camps (HB 6574) had significant written comment.

Most testimony was in favor of SB 929, as advocates claimed that a generous amount of families don’t apply for free or reduced lunch because of negative stigmas.

“I believe many parents may not choose to apply for free or reduced meals for fear of their community finding out. Students may not eat at school for fear of peers finding out their family is in need,” wrote Joanne Kirchner-Macri, an assistant food services director with EdAdvance. “Some children are very excited to get to school on a Monday just to eat because it’s [been] a long time since they had that last meal at school on Friday. This hunger is real & we can do something about it.”

And HB 6574, which would “specify that certain programs and activities advertised or operated by municipal departments shall be licensed as youth camps by the Office of Early Childhood,” was heavily opposed.

“If you were to pass the legislation on municipal youth camps become part of the OEC and the mandatory requirements, it would basically kill our camps. It would eliminate needed jobs, eliminate needed child care for families who work during the summer, it would eliminate income for the places we visit and the entertainers who come to our camps,” a recreation supervisor, who chose to remain anonymous, testified.

[GO DEEPER: Some CT lawmakers want to make free lunches at public schools permanent]


Jessika Harkay is CT Mirror’s Education Reporter, covering the K-12 achievement gap, education funding, curriculum, mental health, school safety, inequity and other education topics. Jessika's experience includes roles as a breaking news reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Hartford Courant. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Baylor University.