Senator McGuire leads successful effort to provide over 300,000 of California’s neediest kids access to desperately needed school meals

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sacramento, CA – One out of every four California kids go to bed hungry each night and, tragically, California has the highest rate of children in poverty in America.

But thanks to the efforts of a coalition led by Senator Mike McGuire and Senator Holly Mitchell, that is now starting to change.

In 2015, as Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, Senator McGuire joined with Senator Holly Mitchell, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee on Health and Human Services, to convene a working group of leaders from the California Department of Education, Department of Social Services and Department of Health Care Services. McGuire, Mitchell and the Committee worked for the greater part of the year to cut through red tape that was blocking California’s neediest kids access to free school lunches.

It was announced late Thursday by the California Department of Education that, because of these efforts, 326,029 additional kids are now receiving free and reduced lunch at school. This is a staggering 32 percent increase in the number of students automatically approved to receive free meals in California schools as a result of these collaborative efforts. 

“We worked as a team to cut through bureaucratic red tape and this action ensures hundreds of thousands of kids will now have access to healthy food,” Senator McGuire said. “It’s hard to be successful in school when you’re hungry, we know this move will improve kids health and help them succeed in the classroom.”

In December 2015, the last month complete data is available, the 32 percent increase meant that 326,029 additional students were automatically approved for free school meals in California’s school nutrition programs. That brings the total number of automatically eligible students in the state to 1.3 million.

Students are enrolled in the free meals program through a “direct certification” process that grants automatic eligibility to students from families already participating in CalFresh without the families having to complete any additional meal applications. This relieves needy families and school districts from another administrative burden and helps ensure the most vulnerable kids have access to nutritious meals during the school day.

“When we work together, California is stronger,” said Senator McGuire. “I can’t thank Senator Mitchell, Superintendent Torlakson and the entire Department of Education team – along with the Department of Social Services and Department of Health Care Services – enough for all of their efforts over the past many months.”

While this represents one of the most significant steps forward in years, Senator McGuire knows there is a lot more work to be done to make sure students have access to nutritious breakfast and lunch at our local schools and is committed to continuing that effort.

Represented in the table below are the North Bay/North Coast increases in students receiving free and reduced lunches with the new changes.

County

Students receiving free/reduced lunch prior to fix

Students receiving free/reduced lunch after fix

Total additional students

Del Norte

1,011

1,378

367

Lake

2,214

2,894

680

Humboldt

3,594

4,531

937

Trinity

253

356

103

Mendocino

2,410

3,125

715

Sonoma

6,011

8,359

2,348

Marin

1,897

2,303

406

 

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