Our Priorities

Earlier this year, Governor Newsom presented his 2024–25 state budget proposal, including full funding for the School Meals for All program, with an additional $122 million to support increased student participation. This commitment reflects the program’s success and the dedication of California’s school nutrition professionals to ensure all students have access to free meals. 

Our priorities acknowledge California’s recent commitment to transforming school nutrition. We are focused on urging the California Legislature to fund these critical investments in child nutrition: 

  • Free School Meals for All in California
    • As over half of states consider passing permanent free school meals legislation and eight states now have universal school meals policies in place, California is serving as a beacon for the movement to increase access to school meals.  
  • California’s reimbursement rates for school meals 
    • We also strongly support maintaining California’s state reimbursement of $0.9760 per meal. While other states struggle with decreased participation, concerns remain over the country’s long-term financial sustainability of school nutrition programs. In fact, out of all the existing California state-level policies that support the implementation of School Meals for All, 92 percent of school nutrition directors ranked the state meal reimbursement as either “very important” or “most important,” according to a recent Center for Ecoliteracy survey with 49 public school districts that collectively serve over 1.49 million students and 24% of California’s school meals.
  • Strengthen the connection between California Farmers and Schools
    • California’s investments in transforming school food help realize the full potential of school meals to nourish our students, support local farmers, and benefit the planet. Sourcing locally from farmers stimulates California’s economy and nourishes our children simultaneously.
  • Kitchen Infrastructure and Training (KIT) to serve fresh and local meals
    • KIT improves the infrastructure required to serve more freshly-prepared, California-grown school meals. We have heard from school districts across the state that the KIT funds are being used to successfully implement School Meals for All. As school meal participation increases, school districts need more refrigerators, ovens, and other equipment to serve more students daily. This funding continues to be in very high demand among school districts. According to data from the California Department of Education (CDE), in 2021, 85-90 percent of school districts opted-in to receive the $150 million available in KIT funding for updating infrastructure, purchasing or repairing equipment, or engaging school nutrition staff in training. Almost all (92 percent) of eligible California agencies applied for KIT funding in 2022. Continuing to invest in KIT is essential to make all California public school kitchen facilities capable of freshly preparing school meals. We urge leadership to also consider opportunities in 2024 bonds and in the budget to fund Kitchen Infrastructure and Training (KIT) for school nutrition staff. 

California’s commitment to these critical school nutrition investments fights hunger, improves food quality, increases student access to healthy school meals, provides necessary kitchen infrastructure, incentivizes California-grown procurement, and supports school nutrition staff.