Aug 16, 2022 - Politics

San Francisco to offer public school students free meals

Illustration of a cafeteria lunch tray with a plate and silverware on it and on the plate there are fruits and vegetables making a smiley face.
Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

San Francisco Unified School District students can continue receiving free breakfast and lunch this school year, regardless of their family's income.

Why it matters: Healthy eating is linked to better grades and test scores, but 12.5% of kids in California are food insecure, according to Feeding America.

  • Meanwhile, food prices are on the rise, hitting their highest annual rate of growth (10.9%) in about 43 years, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports.

Details: SFUSD schools will offer a "nutritionally balanced" breakfast with fresh fruit and milk, 20-30 minutes before school starts.

  • To get a free lunch, schools will require students to pick a fruit or vegetable to go with their entree.
  • A.P. Giannini Middle School (my alma mater), for example, is offering students the choice of a turkey sandwich, a Greek chicken quesadilla, or an individual cheese pizza for lunch on the first day of school on Tuesday.
  • Applications are not necessary.

State of play: The free meal offering is a result of California Assembly Bill 130, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law last year.

  • The law applies to public school districts, county offices of education and charter schools serving students in grades transitional K-12.
  • Prior to the passage of the law, a family of four's income could not exceed $34,060 annually to qualify for free student meals, and not more than $48,470 to qualify for reduced-price meals.
  • SFUSD offered free meals to students for the first time last school year thanks to financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The support that made it possible for schools to offer free meals, however, expired in June.

Zoom out: Maine last year approved a similar program that will go into effect this school year.

What they're saying: "When children are able to eat healthy meals during their school day, they're better positioned to achieve," Alexandra Emmott, interim executive director of SFUSD Nutrition Services, said in a statement.

Flashback: From 1969 through the early '70s, the Black Panthers' Free Breakfast for School Children fed tens of thousands of kids nationwide.

  • The USDA's free breakfast efforts, which launched in the mid-1960s, "only took off" in the early 1970s, around the time the federal government dismantled the Black Panther Party.
  • Norma Amour Mtume, a former Black Panther Party member, said in 2016: "I really do believe that the government [expanded] their program because of the work we were doing."
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