All California public school students will have access to free nutritious meals this school year, thanks to the statewide Universal Meals Program.

The program comes at a crucial time, with food costs rising, inflation and an overall increase in children facing hunger since the pandemic.

According to Feeding America, an estimated 13 million children (1 in 6), may have experienced food insecurity in 2021.

California is the first state to promise all 6 million public school students free meals thanks to the landmark state budget agreement

The Universal Meals program is designed to build on the foundations of the federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (BSP) and ensures all students are offered breakfast and lunch at school.

"We know that many California children are food insecure, and if you're hungry you cannot learn well," she told EdSource last year.

California's State Meal Mandate is expanded to include both a nutritiously adequate breakfast and lunch for, not just needy children, but all children each school day.

 High poverty schools will be required to participate in the federal provision.

 The California State Legislature allocates funds to provide additional state meal reimbursement to cover the cost of the Universal Meals Program.

"No child should have to go to school hungry, especially not in this state."