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School Meals for All

California is among the first in the nation to adopt a “universal school meals” program offering breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students at public and charter schools every instructional day, at no charge, regardless of household income. California’s program begins in the 2022-23 school year, as federal funding of temporary universal school meals through the Seamless Summer Option and USDA waivers allowing flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic end.

The Nutrition Policy Institute was funded to conduct formative, process and impact evaluation through CA SB 170 (2021). The latest news, research briefs and publications from this evaluation are included below.

Research Briefs


Cohen JF, Polacsek M, Hecht CE, Hecht K,Read M, Olarte DA, Patel AI, Schwartz MB, Turner L, Zuercher M, Gosliner W, Ritchie LD. Implementation of Universal School Meals during COVID-19 and beyond: Challenges and Benefits for School Meals Programs in Maine. Nutrients, volume 14, issue 19, article 4031, 28 September 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194031

[Abstract] [Full text]

Zuercher MD, Cohen JFW, Hecht CE, Hecht K, Ritchie LD, Gosliner W. Providing School Meals to All Students Free of Charge During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: Challenges and Benefits Reported by School Foodservice Professionals in California. Nutrients, volume 14issue 18, article 3855, 17 September 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14183855

[Abstract] [Full text]

In the News

Los Angeles Times - Gran reto logístico implica los alimentos gratis en las escuelas. ¿Cómo resolverlo? (15 September 2022)

The New York Times - What if Every Kid Got a Free Lunch? (19 January 2023, print only) 

More information

Learn more about our national team evaluating universal school meal policies across the nation.

Learn more about which states are implementing universal school meal policies.

For more information about the California Universal School Meals evaluation, please contact Wendi Gosliner (wgosliner@ucanr.edu) or Lorrene Ritchie (lritchie@ucanr.edu).