California's public-school students, all 6.2 million, will enjoy two free meals a day regardless of family income in an effort to protect poor children from the “stigma” of filling their lunch tray for free.
"No questions. No stigma,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (pictured at left) announced last week in a tweet. “ALL California kids now have access to free meals at schools.”
California is spending $650 million for the free school program in the 2022-2023 school year, CNN reported.
Some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York City, Boston, and Chicago already offer free school meals for all but California is the first state to initiate such a program statewide.
Under federal rules, a family of four must make less than $34,000 a year to qualify for free meals and $48,000 to qualify for reduced-price meals, according to a PBS story.
Approximately 60% of those 6.2 million students qualified for free or reduced-price meals during the 2019-2020 school year according to a coalition known as School Meals for All.
Steven Greenhut, a Sacramento resident with the R Street Institute, says everyone wants poor children to get fed at school even if they can’t afford to pay.
“But the bigger issue is why does California have a high poverty rate,” he tells One News Now. “How come it is so unaffordable to buy a home? How come everything costs so much more here?”
California’s median household income ranks among the best in the country, but the state also boasts one of the the highest poverty rates, a stigma most often attributed to poorer states such as Mississippi and Louisiana.
Mississippi, meanwhile, is known for its low cost of living while California is infamous for sky-high taxes, wildly expensive real estate, and burdensome regulations.