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California to start permanently offering free meals to all public school students this fall

The state said it would be the first in the country to make free meals permanent for all students in public schools, regardless of their family’s income.

“No questions. No stigma. ALL Californian children now have access to free school meals,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said. tweeted last week, with a link to an article announcing the news.

Almost 60% of California’s 6.2 million students qualified for free or discounted meals in the 2019-20 school year, according to School Meals for All, a coalition of more than 200 organizations that requested funding from the state budget to gain momentum.

“Right now, nearly 20% of all California households – and 27.3% of Latinx households with children and 35.5% of black households with children – report food insecurity,” School Meals for All said. in a press release last month. “This is double the pre-pandemic rates, affecting an estimated 8 million Californians.”

Universal free meal programs ensure no one falls into the cracks and remove the stigma associated with being eligible for free or discounted meals due to family income, the coalition said.

“California has made history,” Kat Taylor, co-founder of the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation and co-sponsor of School Meals for All, said in a press release. “As the first state in the country to adopt universal school meals, California gives children a better chance to grow up healthy and ready to succeed.”

School officials across the state also welcomed the news.

“This is a victory for our schools, our families and our students,” said Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Oakland Unified School District superintendent, in a statement in the School Meals for All press release.

Trieste Huey, director of food services for the Fontana Unified School District, said “California’s leadership in feeding every hungry child should be a role model for the rest of our nation.”

“I have seen how stigma can prevent students from eating school meals, even when the alternative is hungry,” Huey said in a statement released in a statement. “School Meals for All will not only eliminate school meal debt, but provide much-needed relief to struggling families facing the daily stress and stigma associated with feeding their children. “

According to School Meals for All, “The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers that allowed schools to provide free meals to all students during the pandemic are expected to expire at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, date on which California Public Schools will be reimbursed for the provision of universal school meals. “

California will invest “$ 650 million in standing funds by 2022-2023 to support free and universal school nutrition, including access to two free meals each day for all students, and $ 150 million to improve school nutrition. ‘Kitchen infrastructure and nutritional training,’ Newsom’s office said in its statement. Release.
The meal program is part of a $ 123.9 billion educational program that also includes a free preschool for all children, expanded after-school and summer programs, and the addition of additional staff.

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