California Launches Largest Free School Lunch Program in US

Los Angeles Unified School District food service workers from left, Tomoko Cho, Aldrin Agrabantes, April Thomas, and Marisel Dominguez, pre-package hundreds of free school lunches in plastic bags on Thursday, July 15, 2021, at the Liechty Middle School in Los Angeles. Flush with cash from an unexpected budget surplus, California is launching the nation’s largest statewide universal free lunch program. When classrooms open for the fall term, every one of California’s 6.2 million public school students will have the option to eat school meals for free, regardless of their family’s income. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)


California is launching the nation’s largest statewide universal free lunch program.

When classrooms open for the fall term, every one of California’s 6.2 million public school students will have the option to eat school meals for free, regardless of their family’s income.

“I thought it was a pipe dream for a long time,” said Senator Nancy Skinner, a longtime advocate for universal free meals.

The program is a part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s $100 billion state budget titled “California Roars Back” which includes the largest recovery plan in state history, according to the statement.

“Transforming schools into gateways of opportunity…Public schools in low-income neighborhoods will be able to fundamentally transform into the kind of complete campus every parent would want for their child: smaller class sizes, before- and after-school instruction, sports and arts, personalized tutoring, nurses and counselors and free school nutrition – paired with new preventative behavioral health services for every kid in California.” Said in Newsom’s press release.

“We’ve completely leveled the playing field when it comes to school food,” said Erin Primer, director of food services for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District on California’s central coast, explaining that the extra funding will also allow for tastier, better quality food such as fresh bread, produce and cheese from local producers.

“Just like you need to give students textbooks and a computer, there are certain things you need to do. And this is one of them,” said Tony Wold, an associate superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School.

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