Sunday, 25 February 2024

Bill advancing universal free school meals for California’s hungriest kids heads to Assembly

SACRAMENTO – A bill approved in Assembly Appropriations this past week would expand free and reduced breakfast and lunch for hundreds of thousands of students on Medi-Cal.

SB 138 – the “Feed the Kids Act” will address childhood hunger by removing a massive layer of bureaucratic red tape from the State school meal program enrollment process and by serving all students in very high poverty schools for free.

The legislation would develop a universal enrollment process by ensuring that all school districts utilize Medi-Cal data to seamlessly enroll income-eligible students in free and reduced-price school meals.

California has more children in poverty than any other state in the nation, with nearly one in four kids going hungry each day. In fact, there are more kids in poverty here in the Golden State now than there were prior to the recession.

Each year, millions of low-income California children who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals miss out on them, also missing out on the academic and health benefits the meals provide.

“When a child goes to school hungry, their ability to learn, grow and thrive is compromised,” State Sen. Mike McGuire said. “School meals help fight the devastating effects of childhood hunger and improve outcomes in our public schools, yet so many kids who need to eat, aren’t being provided free school meals – and it’s time that changes.”

Currently, most districts do not use Medi-Cal data to automatically enroll students.

This bill will automatically enroll income-eligible students who are on Medi-Cal onto the free and reduced lunch program at their school, therefore increasing the number of kids receiving free and reduced lunch.

The California Department of Education believes an additional 650,000 elementary, middle school and high school students would start receiving school meals under this new and efficient certification process.

SB 138 will head to the Assembly floor in the next two weeks.

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