Starting this year, every public school student in Orange County will have the option to get meals at school for free, regardless of their family’s income.
In fact, free meals will be available to all 6.2 million students in California, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, thanks in large part to the state’s unexpected budget windfall, the Associated Press reports.
For years, California students qualified for free meals based on their families’ income levels. Under the National School Lunch Program, a family of four has to make less than $34,000 a year for their children to be eligible for free meals. An income above that amount but below $48,000 qualifies for reduced-price meals.
While some large cities like New York, Boston and Chicago have offered free school meals for all students, it was thought to be prohibitively expensive for a state.
But with an influx of new revenue, California became the first state to adopt a universal meal program in June. Maine has since followed suit.
“This is so historic. It’s beyond life-changing,” Erin Primer, director of food services for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, told the Associated Press.
According to EdSource, the state program actually begins in 2022-23 because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already committed to paying for all school meals in 2021-22.
And here are some of the other stories we’ve been tracking this week:
- More than 2,500 educators from across California gathered virtually for a three-day Professional Learning Institute aimed at sharing practices that support the academic, behavioral and social-emotional success of all students. OCDE Associated Superintendent Dr. Christine Olmstead, who heads the California MTSS leadership team, shared some of the highlights.
- A panel of eight academic experts shared their insight on ethnic studies and California’s recently adopted model curriculum Wednesday during an online forum hosted by Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares. The OCDE Newsroom posted a recap of what the speakers had to say on key topics, and the Orange County Register also covered the colloquium with a focus on four local superintendents who participated.
- A new initiative approved last week by the Orange County Transportation Authority will allow all passengers ages 18 and under to ride the bus for free beginning in September. The program is set to be re-evaluated in February.
- The latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics support in-person learning in the fall along with universal masking on campuses for anyone over the age of 2.
- As the start of the 2021-22 school year nears, Spectrum News 1 reports that some school boards are struggling with the state’s mask mandate, which calls for all K-12 students to wear face coverings indoors. Meanwhile, a group of parents based in San Diego has sued California over the mandate.
- During a joint meeting of the Laguna Beach Unified school board and the Laguna Beach City Council, officials discussed a district school bus yard and the possibility of using it for new housing.
- The Capistrano Unified school board reviewed a district initiative that sent Chromebook laptops home with students during the pandemic.
- Four Orange County scholars have been selected to participate in a prestigious Bank of America summer internship program that promotes leadership development and community engagement opportunities.
- Citing the need for more research, Newport-Mesa Unified school board members recently decided to table a discussion over whether to continue a series of anti-bias trainings offered by the Anti-Defamation League.