California could expand its free public school meals program to also include children in daycare under a bill introduced last week, state Sen. Josh Becker said Wednesday, Feb. 23.
Starting for the 2022-2023 school year, the state's Universal Meals Program will make free breakfast and lunch available to all K-12 public school students. State legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom approved the program last year as part of the state's budget.
Senate Bill 1481 would extend that program to state-licensed daycare providers, according to Becker, by reimbursing them for the full cost of providing meals as long as they follow federal nutrition standards.
"California's youngest children cannot be left out of our state's groundbreaking meals policy to tackle food insecurity among learners," said Becker, D-San Mateo. "SB 1481 would ensure that all families can send their kids to child care centers offering free, nutritious meals."
A total of 13 other legislators have signed on an co-authors of the bill, including Assembly members Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park, and Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley.
"Food insecurity is a growing problem and access to healthy nutritious food is of critical importance to everyone," Mullin said. "It is even more critical for young children who are in their early stages of growth and development."
According to Becker, a Menlo Park resident, the bill is expected to be heard in an undetermined Senate committee this spring.