California to become 1st state to offer free school lunch for all students

The days of forgetting your lunch money are gone — at least in California.

The state’s department of education is implementing a Universal Meals Program for schoolchildren. Starting this school year, 2022-2023, all public school students can get free lunch and breakfast, according to the department’s website.

California is the first state to have a statewide free school meals program.

<p>Kindergarten students Alan Corona Olguin, left, and Aidan Chang enjoy a school lunch at an elementary school in Sacramento, Calif., on April 14, 2016.</p>

Randall Benton

Kindergarten students Alan Corona Olguin, left, and Aidan Chang enjoy a school lunch at an elementary school in Sacramento, Calif., on April 14, 2016.

The meals will be served during the school day for students regardless of income status or eligibility for free or reduced programs. This includes students in state public school districts, county offices of education and charter schools that teach students in transitional kindergarten to grade 12.

The program is part of state Assembly Bill 130, which focuses on education finance and was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. Funding comes from the department of education.

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