After a huge budget surplus from income tax revenue, California is launching the largest free school lunches program in the US. All 6.2 million public school students in the state are free to join regardless of family income.
When classrooms reopen for the fall term in California, all 6.2 million public school students will have the chance to opt into their school’s free meal program for the first time.
This state-wide pledge has been made possible by an unexpected $75 billion budget surplus largely from income tax revenue, and $54 million has now been committed to offer free lunches for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
Beyond that, a further $650 million has been set aside to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch options throughout the following year. Gone at last are federal laws that capped student eligibility at under $34,000 per household.
While several US cities including New York, Boston, and Chicago have provided free school meals for some years now, California’s proposal is the first to go completely state-wide – challenging prior notions that the prospect was too costly and unrealistic.
California is launching the nation’s largest statewide universal free lunch program.
— Nina Lozano (@NinaReports) July 20, 2021
California’s director of food services, Erin Primer, has lauded the influx of funding as ‘historic’ and ‘life changing’ not only in greatly increasing the quantity of school meals, but also the quality. ‘The extra funding will allow schools to offer tastier, better quality food such as fresh bread, produce, and cheese from local producers,’ she said.
At a time where the Golden State found itself flush with cash, momentum to upscale food assistance was quickly seized upon and driven by a coalition of school officials, lawmakers, charities, and parents called School Meals for All.
Almost immediately after, Maine introduced a similar bill of its own.