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Proposed law would expand free lunch, eliminate red tape

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A proposed state law would require all California K-12 schools to provide students with free lunches, no paperwork required. 

Senate Bill 364, the End Child Hunger Act of 2021, was introduced this month by State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. 

She said that schools should not decide who receives a lunch or not and that this bold move of a bill eliminates the cumbersome free lunch application process.

The bill calls for using any available federal funds provided to school districts to fund the effort. It calls for the school meal programs to extend through school breaks, and it lays out intent for future progression of the law to help establish California’s, Better Out of School Time, or BOOST, nutrition program further.

 Existing law only requires public schools in the state to provide nutritional services within the confines of the “After the Bell Program” to those who qualify based on family income. 

This program would provide at least one meal per student, and it would apply to both public and private schools.

Jackie Goldberg, Los Angeles Unified School District board member, said this proposed law is important, and she added that LAUSD began to expand its free lunch offerings since the start of the pandemic. 

“COVID-19 made hunger very clear,” said Goldberg, who said grab-and-go meals are available at 63 school sites across her district currently.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, on March 14, LAUSD has served (free) meals,” Goldberg said. “The menu changes every day, and you can take as many as you need. We should never have any child go hungry.”

—Lindsey Pacela

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