HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s often called the most important meal of the day, but not all students have access to the breakfast they need to fuel a day of school or lunch to keep them going. End Hunger CT! is leading the charge to change that.

End Hunger CT! and 20 other organizations formed the School Meals For All coalition. Together, they seek more than $30 million in funding to ensure all students have the meals they need to get through the end of the school year.

“School meals should be an integral part of the student’s education just as textbooks and transportation are,” Lucy Nolan, policy director for End Hunger CT! said.

The coalition gathered at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday to discuss efforts with local leaders and health professionals.

“A child will have malnutrition, a long-term impact, emotional and social, and so many more challenges with chronic illnesses,” State Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) said.

Anwar is trained in the medical field and knows the harmful impact hunger can have on children. He is in full support of the coalition’s efforts.

The need among students has grown rapidly in the last few months. In late 2022, federal pandemic funding that brought free meals to students across the country ended. With the additional funds, districts across Connecticut can find the money to pay for students in need.

Jennifer Bove is the nutrition services director at East Hampton Public Schools.

“We went to full pay Dec. 1, and the effects were awful. They were immediate. We’ve had a drop in our lunch participation of 45%,” Bove said.

Among students with documented food insecurity, meal participation has dropped by 27%. Bove says this is due to stigma.

“Once the full-price kids stop buying lunch, the free and reduced [price] kids stop buying lunch also,” Bove said.

According to Anwar, the coalition supports two pieces of legislation. The first part would take care of the funding needed to help students through the end of the year. The second part is a bill to make no-cost meals permanent for students in Connecticut.