California parents value School Meals for All and offer suggestions to strengthen school meal programs

May 17, 2023

According to a study conducted by the Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, parents of K-12 students in California overwhelmingly value the benefits of school meals, such as saving families money and time, reducing family stress, and improving academic performance. Researchers interviewed a representative sample of 1,110 California parents of children in public or charter schools, and 82% said school meals helped them save money, while 80% said it helped them save time. However, the interviews also revealed some of the challenges faced by school meal programs, including repetitive menus and students not liking what was served. Parents suggested simplifying the meal application process and providing information in written formats to help them overcome some barriers to participation. Study findings are presented in a research brief, developed by NPI as part of their formative evaluation of California's Universal School Meals. California's new program provides free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students and is a model for other states. This study aims to continue to inform and help optimize the program.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Wendi Gosliner
Editor - Project scientist
By Lorrene Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist