New York Times: What to Know About California’s Free School Lunch Program

By Soumya Karlamangla

When classrooms went dark last year as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, many school kitchens stayed open.

Cafeterias from New York to Los Angeles transformed into food banks, serving students and communities that had come to rely on them. You may remember images of folding tables piled high with brown bag lunches, or snaking lines of cars as families waited to pick up meals.

The pandemic laid bare much of what we once took for granted, including the extent to which schools aid in children’s nutrition. More than half of American schoolchildren — roughly 30 million of them — depended on free or reduced-price school lunches before the pandemic.

This summer, flush with cash from an unexpected budget surplus, California further cemented schools’ role in preventing hunger: The state became the first in the nation to provide all students free breakfast and lunch.

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