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California becomes first state to give all K-12 kids free breakfast, lunch

Universal Meals will allow all public school K -12 students to get their breakfast and lunch at no cost this school year.

SAN DIEGO — California has become the first state in the nation to offer free school meals to all children regardless of their family's income.

"Feeding San Diego is thrilled that this is going forward and it's an investment that's going to help a lot of families in San Diego County," said Carissa Casares, the Senior Communications Manager for Feeding San Diego.

Feeding San Diego said about half of San Diego Unified students rely on free or reduced meals. 

Universal Meals will allow all public school K -12 students to get their breakfast and lunch at no cost this school year, without applying.

"Everyone is just going to be offered a meal and that's going to make a huge difference for kids who before might have been embarrassed to receive the free meal," said Casares.

Universal Meals builds on the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. It comes at a time when many families are feeling the impacts of inflation and rising food costs.

Starting this coming school year, the bill requires public school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools serving students in grades TK–12 to provide two meals free of charge (breakfast and lunch) during each school day to students requesting a meal, regardless of their free or reduced-price meal eligibility. 

"I think this is a great time to make this part of the fabric of our education system and make sure kids are going to receive meals while in school," said Casares.

The new program is funded by state and federal dollars. According to the California Department of Education, nearly 6 million kids will benefit from this first-in-the-nation program.

WATCH RELATED: How to protect yourself from scams while back-to-school shopping (Aug. 2022).

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