California will now be the first state in America to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students through its Universal Meals program, which will go into effect in the 2022-23 school year.
Under the new law signed in by Governor Gavin Newsom, public schools, county offices of education, and charter schools serving students from kindergarten to 12th grade must provide breakfast and lunch during each school day to students needing a meal, regardless of the student’s free or reduced-price meal eligibility.
The previous free and reduced-price lunch programs were primarily based on household income, and though the majority of schools had these programs, this law is likely a response to the growing food insecurity among children in California. According to Feeding America, out of about 3.6 million people currently facing hunger, 1.2 million of them are children.
The law will also allocate $150 million to support kitchen infrastructure upgrades, and staff training regarding nutrition for districts preparing to implement the Universal Meals program.