By Ali Tadayon, EdSource, April 8, 2021
As students gradually return to classrooms, advocates and lawmakers say it’s more important than ever to provide free meals in schools without burdensome eligibility requirements, just as California has done during the pandemic.
The “Free School Meals For All” bill, SB 364, introduced last month by East Bay Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would establish a statewide Universal Meal Plan starting in the 2022-2023 school year. It would guarantee free breakfast and lunch for all California students and eliminate the application process that proved a barrier to many families. Though New York City, Chicago and other U.S. cities have created such programs, California would be the first to do it statewide.
“If students come to class hungry, it’s harder to learn,” Skinner said. “There’s a lot of reasons why a child may come to school hungry; they might just not have had time to pack a lunch. Why should we have to go through a whole bureaucratic hassle to get the kid fed when we could just have universal meals?”