School meals are now accessible in California, making it the first state in the nation to do so.
In California, the State Board of Education has developed a Universal Meals program that builds on the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program.
Cal Matters reports that 5.8 million students would benefit from the policy, up from 5.7 million in April.
ABC News reports that Merced Union High School District has already begun offering free breakfasts and lunches to students through the program.
It is part of state Assembly Bill 130, which deals with education finance. The Sacramento Bee reports that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law last year.
Sen. Nancy told EdSource last year, “We know that many California children are food insecure, and if you’re hungry, you cannot learn well; she helped spearhead the program last year.
A new initiative – backed by state and federal governments – comes as inflation and food costs have become more acute. As an added benefit, it has helped to end the stigma associated with getting a free meal.
According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 children in the U.S. will experience food security in 2021.
Erin Tassey, director of nutritional services, told KABC, “When a student would come through a lunch line, and they were considered to be a free student, it would create a barrier with getting meals during the day.”
Students told the news station: “I remember when I was in elementary school, I had to pay for lunch. I’m glad that this benefits everyone.”
California director Kathy Saile said, “To ensure our kids learn and thrive in the classroom, Governor Newsom must continue funding universal school meals to address food insecurity.”
According to ABC News, Maine’s Gov. Janet Mills signed similar legislation last year.