Shay Diddy

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California Is The FIRST State To Offer Free Meals To All Students!

Pre school multiracial boy having meal with children indoors at nursery school, looking at camera.

Photo: Moment RF

This academic year, all students attending California's public schools will have free access to healthy meals thanks to the state's Universal Meals Program.

The program is being implemented at a vital time, when food prices are rising, inflation is on the rise, and more kids than ever are going hungry. One in six children, or 13 million, may have experienced food insecurity in 2021, according to Feeding America.

Thanks to the historic state budget deal that Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law last July after the passage of Assembly Bill 130, California is the first state to guarantee free meals to all 6 million pupils enrolled in public schools, regardless of income.

According to the California Department of Education, the program's success is dependant on three major pillars:

1. The State Meal Mandate for California is increased to include a nutritiously adequate breakfast and lunch for all students, not only those in need, each school day.

2. Participation in the federal provision will be obligatory for high poverty schools.

3. To cover the cost of the Universal Meals Program, the California State Legislature allots money to give additional state meal reimbursement.

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