Students in the Newman Crows Landing Unified School District and the Gustine Unified School District will be able to have free breakfasts and lunches each school day through the statewide Universal Meals Program.

“It’s a great resource for parents,” said NCLUSD Chief Business Official Carolyn Mendoza. “We don’t charge them for textbooks or pencils, so why should they have to pay for meals when they have to be here all day?”

California is the first state to implement a Universal Meals Program, which starts this school year. It 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. To ensure that the program is a success, the California Department of Education has instituted three pillars.

Pillar One: 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.

Pillar Two: High poverty schools will be required to participate in a federal provision.

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

 Additionally, $150 million in one-time funding was made available during the 2021–22 SY to support kitchen infrastructure upgrades and nutrition related staff training for districts as they prepare for the implementation of Universal Meals.

The federal government has a program that covers the costs of meals for children whose parents qualify under the income guidelines. Under the state’s Universal Meals Program, the state will backfill any costs not covered by the federal program and the portion parents would pay. 

Even though the program is open to all students, and it is not income-based, parents are asked to fill out an application for the program. The application is more about gathering data that can be used to help school districts with additional needs like internet access, Title I and other classroom benefits. The forms are available online through the school districts or at the school sites.

Breakfasts will be served before school starts and during the first break/recess.