California becomes first state to offer free lunches in public schools
Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, all California public school students will have access to free meals, through the state’s Universal Meals Program. The program makes breakfast and lunch available to all six million students, regardless of family income level.
The program makes California the first state in the nation to offer a free school lunch program as Child Nutrition Waivers, federal waivers that allowed public schools to provide free meals to students during the pandemic, end. . Combined with inflation and rising food prices, this decision comes at a critical time for parents in California who are unsure how they will ensure their child has a balanced and nutritious diet.
“Building on historic budget investments for our California students and schools, Universal Meals is one of seven key pillars of school transformation designed to help students heal, recover and thrive while maximizing this unique opportunity to break the cycle of inequalities in education, including nutritional insecurity,” said Nicholas Filipas, spokesperson for the California Department of Education. ABC10.
According to Feeding America, an estimated 13 million children — like 1 in 6 children in America — likely experienced food insecurity in 2021.
“With the start of the new school year, California expanded the existing state meal mandate, and now every school day, public school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools will make available free/cost for all students (regardless of individual eligibility) breakfast and lunch,” Filipas added.
The program is part of State Assembly Bill 130, which focuses on financing education. In addition to providing free lunches, the bill also forgives any lunch debt for past outstanding balances on student accounts.
Maine became the second state to introduce a universal school lunch plan a day after California lawmakers first introduced their state’s plan last year.
“Children in Maine should be able to focus on learning math and playing with their friends, not on empty stomachs. By providing nutritious, free school lunches, no questions asked, we can ensure that children in Maine can focus on their lives,” Maine Senate Speaker Troy said. Jackson, the budget bill’s lead sponsor, said in a statement at the time. “No child should have to go to school hungry, especially not in this state.”
No child should have to go to school hungry in *any* state. We hope more states will follow suit by providing free, nutritious meals to all children.