We’ve written about how nutritious and affordable school lunches can drastically reduce childhood hunger. Realizing the public health benefits of school lunches, the state of California will now make school meals free for all public school students.
During the 2019-2020 school year, 60 percent of California schoolchildren qualified for free or reduced-price meals, but the pandemic has exacerbated hunger and increased that figure with 20 percent of all California households reporting food insecurity.
Under the new lunch policy, called School Meals for All, the state will invest $650 million to make two free daily meals available to all children, including $150 million to improve kitchen infrastructure and nutritional training.
Childhood malnutrition leads to poorer long-term health outcomes and food insecurity prevents children from focusing their whole attention on learning and thriving. Research has shown that free school meals increase the amount of fresh produce students consume, help reduce obesity, and improve academic performance, especially in marginalized communities.
Trieste Huey, food service director of Fontana Unified School District says, “School Meals for All will not only eliminate school meal debt, it will also provide much-needed relief to struggling families experiencing daily stress and stigma around feeding their kids.”