Our Vision & Values
All children deserve to be well nourished and thrive. School meals are an essential resource that help students learn, grow, and achieve at their fullest potential. By connecting children with the nutritious food they need, we can help close systemic opportunity gaps that harm students with low income and students of color, particularly Black and Latinx children, across California.
The Need & Opportunity
Unlike many other public programs, school meals do not exclude children based on immigration status. But school meals still don’t reach all children experiencing hunger and hardship. Underlying federal rules for school meal programs don’t reflect true need or true poverty in California -- keeping many students from accessing nutritious, affordable meals.
Throughout the pandemic, time-limited exceptions to these federal rules have meant that schools can serve meals free of charge to all children. Looking ahead, strategic state investments can give students continued access to universally free meals.
Building On What Works
Maximizing the reach of the federally-authorized Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), would make universally free breakfast and lunch available to an estimated 1.8 million students in 3,000 schools. This approach is rooted in fairness and makes the most of available federal resources.
Maximizing CEP would ensure that state investments prioritize the needs of students facing the starkest inequities, including higher rates of food insecurity and learning loss. Maximizing CEP would also draw down the most federal funding of any strategy aimed at improving the reach of school meal programs. It is a smart investment at the right time.
Ensure that the state investments expand access to universally free school meals and that those investments first maximize the use of the Community Eligibility Provision.