California becomes the first state to provide all students with free meals

B.R. Shenoy

“Building on the historic budget investments for our California students and schools, Universal Meals is one of seven key pillars for transforming schools designed to help students heal, recover, and thrive while maximizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to break the cycle of educational inequity, including nutrition insecurity,” Nicholas Filipas, spokesperson for the California Department of Education, told ABC10.

According to ABC 10, California has officially launched its Universal Meals Program for the 2022-2023 school year. The ambitious initiative will provide free breakfast and lunch to all public school students, regardless of family income, per a California Department of Education press release.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation establishing the Universal Meals Program, which requires all public and charter schools to provide at least two free meals per day to students who request them.

Previously, the state operated a free and reduced-price meal program, with eligibility determined by household income.

The legislation also includes $150 million in funding for kitchen upgrades and nutrition-related staff training in order to prepare schools for program implementation.

According to Cal Matters, the policy will benefit more than 5.8 million students (the state's public school enrollment count in April).

Per Feeding America, approximately 1 in 6 children in the U.S. experienced food security in 2021.

The program is part of State Assembly Bill 130, which addresses educational funding. The bill not only provides free meals, but it also forgives any lunch debts from previous outstanding balances on student accounts.

Maine has already followed California's lead, indicating a more significant shift toward greater national food equity.

What do you think of the lunch program? Let us know in the comments.

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