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Public schools provide students with Grab-and-Go Meals during COVID-19.

California Governor Approves Additional $80M for Emergency School Meals During Pandemic

Sept. 22, 2020 (Sacramento) — Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday approved additional funding for emergency school meals, giving local school districts more certainty as they feed students during distance learning. With 97% of students learning from home because of the pandemic, the Center for Ecoliteracy, the Office of Kat Taylor and NextGen California have responded to this new reality by advocating to provide communities funding and flexibility as they navigate the new challenges of providing meals to children.

“We applaud Californias leaders for recognizing school food service workers who are going above and beyond to feed hungry children while also overcoming logistical hurdles wrought by the pandemic,” said Kat Taylor, Founder of TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation. “We look forward to continuing our work with legislative leadership at the state and federal level to ensure all children have access to healthy school meals during and after this public health crisis.”

In June, the California Legislature recognized that supplemental funding was critically needed to help cover the additional costs and losses of revenue for schools, associated with COVID-19 food service. The $112 million approved by the Legislature earlier this year was crucial, but not nearly enough. This additional $80 million allocation is necessary to extend much-needed funding that provides school districts with an extra $0.75 for every breakfast and lunch that they served during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic from mid-March through August 2020.

However, the additional funding does not address the entirety of school districts’ deficits or the support they will need in the new school year. An August survey of 39 school districts, representing 800,000 students, by the Center for Ecoliteracy revealed that 92% of school nutrition departments are experiencing budget deficits at the start of the school year. If the patterns observed with this small sample of districts hold true, the Center for Ecoliteracy estimates that school food departments across the state could be facing a combined $325 million budget deficit for the first six months of the pandemic.

“In light of these sobering projections,” said Adam Kessleman, Executive Director at the Center for Ecoliteracy, “we are pleased to see California legislators responding swiftly with this additional funding. Combined with essential USDA waivers, the additional funding will help ensure access to consistent, healthy meals during a time of compounding crises.”

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