Student card bill to cover meals fails in Legislative Assembly

A bill that would have granted electronic benefit transfer cards to low-income schoolchildren to cover meals when classes are not in session quietly failed in the state legislature last week.

Food banks across California have been promoting the legislation, noting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child hunger, as school closures have worsened food insecurity for families who depend on schools for free meals.

The legislation, Senate Bill 364, by State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would have created a state-funded child support program for income-eligible K-12 children to use when schools are closed during the summer.

The bill was modeled after a federal policy enacted during the pandemic that loaded money onto EBT cards so eligible families with children could purchase food while classrooms were closed.

Under this program, run by the California Department of Agriculture, California paid nearly $1.4 billion in benefits to 3.7 million low-income children. Benefit amounts varied based on the number of school days canceled, with a maximum award of $365.

Skinner aimed to make the program permanent in California.

“Despite the success of the program, there are no plans to continue it post-pandemic,” Skinner said in an analysis of SB 364. “This is a model that California could use to provide meals to children during school closures.

“Hunger follows children home after school,” she added.

There was no registered opposition to SB 364, but on Thursday the bill did not survive the fast pace of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, a gatekeeper group that refines proposals based on Cost. The exact price of the bill was unknown, but a legislative analysis estimated ongoing annual costs “in the range of tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars”.

Skinner declined to comment on the bill’s failure.

While a number of school districts offer bagged lunches to pick up when class is out of session, some families don’t have transportation or can’t leave work at the right time to pick up those lunches, say the defenders.

Before the pandemic, more than 15% of California households with children were food insecure. That rate nearly doubled in the early months of the pandemic when schools were closed, according to a report from the California Assn. food banks, a sponsor of SB 364.

Lauren Lathan Reid, a spokeswoman for the group, said he would continue to push for the policy. She praised Skinner and Governor Gavin Newsom for passing legislation last year that made California the first state to offer free school meals to all K-12 students, regardless of income. .

But the need goes beyond the two free meals guaranteed at school, she said, including when classrooms are closed for emergencies like wildfires.

“We don’t stop there,” Lathan Reid said. “We know summer is the hungriest time of year, and we know how to prevent it.”

Los Angeles Times

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