San Diego Tribune: Student meals in California are now free — and fresh, with locally grown ingredients

Petillis director of nutrition services at San Diego Unified School District and lives in Chula Vista.

As San Diego Unified School District’s nutrition services director for almost 19 years, I knew our students were still going to need food when our schools closed due to the pandemic in March 2020. The district has provided over 30 million free meals to children since then. Thankfully, federal waivers allowed all school meals to be free during the pandemic, providing a reliable source of nutrition for students during a tumultuous time. However, the concern for many in our community remained because the economic struggle some families are facing will continue: What will happen once those waivers expire?

The answer we were looking for came with the recently passed California state budget. From now on, every California public school student will receive free school meals, permanently. The new policy, referred to as School Meals for All, will provide free breakfast and lunch every school day.

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