California will permanently begin providing free school meals for students this fall in a move that many advocates are praising as a big step toward ending food insecurity.
The state says it will be the first in the nation to make free meals permanent for all public school students, regardless of their family's income.
"No questions. No stigma. ALL California kids now have access to free meals at schools," California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted last week, linking to an article announcing the news.
Almost 60% of California's 6.2 million students qualified for free or reduced-price meals in the 2019-2020 school year, according to School Meals for All, a coalition made up of more than 200 organizations that has pushed for funding in 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 news release last month. "This is double pre-pandemic rates, impacting about 8 million Californians."Universal free lunch programs ensure no one falls through the cracks and eliminate the stigma associated with qualifying for free or reduced-price meals because of family income, the coalition said.