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California makes student meals free

Words by Smiley Team

The school year has come into full swing and in California, students across the state are coming back to free food regardless of background or income.

The state is officially the first in the United States to offer free meals to all students.

Ahead of the 2022-2023 school year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that establishes a universal meal program. Under the new law, all kindergarten through 12th-grade public schools must provide two free meals, breakfast and lunch, during each school day to students requesting a meal.

In addition to the free meals, the law also provides $150 million in funding to support kitchen infrastructure upgrades and nutrition-related staff training for districts preparing to implement the universal meals program.

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According to the non-profit No Kid Hungry, there are over 12 million children in the US that live in “food insecure” homes, meaning that they’re at risk of not having their nutritional needs met. This new measure in California is an action against that in the country’s most populous state.

The main goal of the new legislation, beyond feeding more children, was lowering the barrier to entry to accessing that food. Previous to the introduction of the law NPR estimates that about 60% of California students already qualified for free or reduced lunch but many of them never saw the benefits because of everything from confusing or complicated applications, or just shame from needing help in the first place.

“It’s just for the most poor families, and not even all of them because some people failed to sign up or were fearful to sign up,” philanthropist and major funder who backed California’s plan, Kat Taylor, told NPR.

This whole process started as a result of covid provisions. While school campuses were closed during the first pandemic wave in 2020, many school districts continued to provide free meals to students through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In turn, many regions in the US are aiming to make this a permanent fixture. 

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: Consider donating and supporting No Kid Hungry

SUPPORT: Find ways to help provide food to those who need it. Donate to local food pantries, and help fund programs feeding kids, among many other things.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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