California is now the world’s fifth largest economy. Despite this concentration of wealth, we have the highest child poverty rate in the nation. In many impoverished neighborhoods, there’s been significant effort to change public education in hopes of empowering and elevating the community. California’s Charter Schools Act of 1992 authorized charter schools as part of the state’s public education, establishing their intention to “provide opportunities” and “increase pupil learning.”.
However, the legislation exempts charter schools from certain laws governing public schools in California; school lunch being one of those exemptions. According to California Food Policy Advocates, “charter schools are California’s only public schools that are exempt from offering low-income pupils a daily, free or reduced-price, nutritious school meal.”
Approximately 630,000 California public school students attend charter schools and nearly sixty percent of those students (around 340,000), are eligible for free and reduced meals(based on federal criteria). The problem is, close to 80,000 of those children have been denied access to school meals, even though they’ve been entitled to them. Until now. Enter Assembly Bill 1871 (AB1871).
Co sponsored by California Food Policy Advocates and Assemblymember Rob Bonta, AB 1871mandates charter schools offer qualifying students a free or reduced NSLP compliant meal beginning next school year. “Food is fundamental, and hunger doesn’t care where a student goes to school,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). “I thank the governor for signing this bill because every student in California deserves access to a healthy meal. AB 1871 means more children will have nourishment and thereby be ready to learn and reach their full potential.”
Child nutrition advocates understand the developmental impact food insecurity and hunger have on academic achievement and overall wellness. The passage of AB1871 ensures every student attending public school in the state of California will have access to school lunch (and in some cases school breakfast and after school snack as well) thereby giving them the foundation to maximize their learning potential.