All public schools in California will begin offering free meals to students in the 2022-2023 school year. Although some school districts already do so, funding from the state budget will allow schools statewide to do the same.
According to the California Department of Education, California will be the first state to implement the Universal Meals Program, which seeks to expand on the federal National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The Universal Meals Program will provide a “nutritiously adequate breakfast and lunch” for all students, regardless of their eligibility for free or reduced-price meals.
In the past, students qualified for free meals from their schools according to certain criteria, such as their parent’s income taxes, the ZIP code where the family resided and the level of poverty in the school’s surrounding area.
In 2021, the state legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom approved one-time funds for public schools to expand their nutrition services and kitchen capacities to prepare for the introduction of the Universal Meals Program.