While parents across the country attempt to navigate what their kids return to school will entail, Marsai Martin is using her platform to help all students get fed.

The Black-ish actress has partnered with school nutrition leaders Urban School Food Alliance and the national student-led coalition Student Voice to make sure students aren’t denied access to lunch and to prevent families from going into debt due to accumulating unpaid fees. In some cases, unpaid lunch fees can lead to other means of punishment and penalties, such as denying a student access to other school activities such as prom and non-curricular field trips, and, in the worst cases, students can be denied the ability to graduate.

The initiative is led by The Soze Agency and Galaxy Gives to ensure that school meals are provided, free of charge, to every K-12 student in America.

School Lunch for All has launched a Change.org petition in an attempt to put pressure on several legislative leaders, including United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, to reallocate COVID-19 relief funds to ensure that all students have access to free meals whenever doors reopen for the 2020-21 academic year.

“With all the things that kids have to worry about while attending school, I believe a healthy lunch shouldn’t be one of them,” Martin said in a statement. “Kids should be able to focus on learning while at school, not whether or not they have enough money to eat.”

The petition was penned by Dwight Howard, grandfather of then-kindergartener Anya Howard, who was refused a hot lunch at her Indiana school in 2019 and was called out in front of her peers when it was discovered she did not have enough money on her account to cover the cost. Anya’s story made national headlines and is just one example of why school nutrition reform is so important.

“When they come to school, children can receive a bus ride, textbooks, the most updated technology, science labs, and great learning opportunities as part of the school day. Only when it comes to school meals do we ask them for information about their family income,” she said. “The science is clear, a well-nourished child has a much better chance at success in the classroom and on the athletic field, so why do we tie the educational tool that school meals bring to the table to family income? School meals provide a benefit to local economies and America’s farmers, so let’s join together and make sure they also provide a benefit to the children they were meant to serve.”

She added, “Make school meals a Universal free program. The money saved in administrative paperwork can be reinvested in the quality of the food and health and wellbeing of our nation’s children can be reinvested in our future. The time is now to invest in our children, it is the right thing to do.”

-The Griot