CA is the First State to Ensure Equitable Meals for Students

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Photo: Courtesy of The San Diego Hunger Coalition

By A.L. Haynes, Contributing Writer, The San Diego Voice and & Viewpoint

Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, California will offer free breakfast and lunch (and dinner, where applicable) to all public and charter school students, regardless of income, the first state in the U.S.A. to do so. Students who would not be eligible for free or reduced lunch under federal and state guidelines will be able to request meals as needed.

The School Meals for All coalition has noted that, “27.3% of Latinx households with children and 35.5% of Black households with children – report food insecurity”. With extensive studies showing that adequate nutrition is necessary for proper brain development and information retention, the guarantee of two meals a day is a step in the right direction for both educational and health equity.

Gary Petill, Nutrition Services Director for the San Diego Unified School District, has high hopes for the program, commenting that “every child will have access to food at school – an essential learning tool.” The program is beginning to roll out this school year, 2021-2022, with the state allocating extra money towards meal programs, including nutrition training for cafeteria staff.

San Diegans should be aware they may not see much difference this year, or even next year, however. With the extensive and continually evolving meal programs developed across 2020 and into this year, most school districts simply need to modify their existing programs designed to alleviate food insecurity during the ongoing Co-Vid Pandemic.

Parents and guardians should reach out to schools and districts to ensure they are part of planning and training, especially as meal guidelines do not generally require allergen-safe alternatives.

Looking to California as a model, Maine has recently become the second state to pass an equitable lunch program.

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