Governor Gavin Newsom and California legislators agreed to permanently provide free lunches for all K-12 students in California public schools starting in fall 2021. California is the first state in the nation to provide this universal statewide service.
School Meals For All, an organization devoted to advocating for free meals for students, supported the Free School Meals for All Act of 2021. Designed after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMFA aimed to provide every California student with free school meals while promoting access to healthy, freshly prepared food grown by California farmers.
“The bill prioritizes low-income children, ensures that schools are adequately funded for their meal programs, and maximizes the drawdown of federal dollars for California school meals,” wrote the organization.
Senate Budget Committee Chair Nancy Skinner introduced the Free School Meals for All Act. The annual budget, passed by the legislature in late June, included provisions from the bill.
In the peak of the pandemic, between March and December of 2020, California public schools offered more than 450 million free school meals.
“If you’re a hungry child, you’re not going to learn well,” said Skinner to KTLA. “Why should we have to go through a bureaucratic hassle to get a kid fed, when we could just have universal meals?”