Research brief: Impacts of Government Investments in School Meals for All program in California

Jul 8, 2024

A recent Nutrition Policy Institute research brief explores how funds from the US Department of Agriculture and the State of California may have helped schools make improvements to their meal programs. The grants were distributed after California started the School Meals For All program to offer breakfast and lunch daily to all K-12 students at no charge, regardless of family income level, in 2022-23. The study surveyed 430 food service directors in March 2023, representing a third of all school food authorities in California, and asked about federal and local grants awarded from school year 2021-2022 until time of survey in 2023. Schools that had used the grant funds by the time of the survey reported purchasing new kitchen equipment, upgrading cafeterias, and improving operations. The grants also allowed schools to increase staff salaries and use more local produce. One school food service director put it this way, “The Kitchen Infrastructure and Training grant allowed us to make changes to our kitchens and buy new equipment that would help change the infrastructure of the way that we serve and do meals. And so, we are really making a huge push right now to get away from packaged foods.” However, many schools reported still lacking enough space for food preparation and storage, suggesting that continued investments are needed to further improve meal operations. Findings in this brief suggest that government investments in school meals may have improved the capabilities of SFAs to purchase, prepare, and store more fresh foods. The research was conducted by Monica Zuercher, Wendi Gosliner, Christina Hecht, Ken Hecht, Lorrene Ritchie and Dania Orta-Aleman from the Nutrition Policy Institute and funded by the State of California through CA SB 170, CA SB 154 and CA SB 101.

By Megan Cooper
By Danielle Lee
Editor - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Monica Daniela Zuercher
Editor - Assistant Project Scientist
By Wendi Gosliner
Editor - Project scientist
By Christina E Hecht
Editor - UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute Academic Coordinator
By Lorrene D Ritchie
Editor - Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute and Cooperative Extension Nutrition Specialist