It has been announced that California will officially begin providing free school meals for all students by the end of this year, taking a huge step toward ending food insecurity.
Free school meals will be made permanent for all public school students, and the decision will not be based on their family's income.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted: "No questions. No stigma. ALL California kids now have access to free meals at schools," linking to an article announcing the news.
No questions. No stigma.
ALL California kids now have access to free meals at schools. https://t.co/H6XD5jnoWl
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 12, 2021
A whopping sixty percent of California's school students fit the requirements for free or discounted meals during the 2019-2020 school year, according to School Meals for All, a coalition that was created to push for funding that would enable free school meals to become permanent.
The pandemic has caused a spike in child hunger cases this last year, even in the richest counties here in the U.S.
"Right now, nearly twenty percent of all California households -- and twenty-seven percent of Latinx households with children and thirty-five percent of Black households with children -- report food insecurity. This is double pre-pandemic rates, impacting about 8 million Californians," School Meals for All said in a news release last month.
The coalition said that introducing free school meals to all students prevents the stigma some children face who need free meals.
Kat Taylor, the co-founder of the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation and co-sponsor of School Meals for All, said: "Freshly prepared school meals made from California-grown ingredients is a critical step towards greater equity. School nutrition workers and local producers - especially those who practice organic and regenerative methods - deserve recognition as the heroes of food security while children deserve to grow up healthy, no matter their zip code."
School officials have also spoken out on the news...
"This is a win for our schools, families, and students," Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent of Oakland Unified School District, said in a statement in School Meals for All's news release.
Trieste Huey, food service director of Fontana Unified School District, said: "California's leadership to feed every hungry child should be a model for the rest of our nation."
"I have seen how stigma can keep students from eating school meals, even when the alternative is going hungry," Huey said in a statement in the news release. "School Meals for All will not only eliminate school meal debt, it will provide much-needed relief to struggling families experiencing daily stress and stigma around feeding their kids."
According to School Meals for All, "the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers that have enabled schools to provide free meals to all students during the pandemic are set to expire at the end of the 2021--22 school year, at which point California's public schools will be reimbursed for providing universal school meals."
Newsom's office said in its news release that California is set to invest "$650 million in ongoing funds by 2022-23 to support universal free school nutrition, including access to two free meals every day for all students, and $150 million to improve kitchen infrastructure and nutritional training."
The new program is part of a $123.9 billion education package that is bound to have a positive effect on all students.