The California School Breakfast and Lunch Program

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California strives to help the academic achievements of children enrolled in school. Success starts with children receiving nutritious meals every day. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the state of California, and local schools work together in order to provide free and reduced meals and milk to students. Students focus and achieve higher academic success when they are properly fed and not worried about their next meal. Breakfast and lunch are key meals for students, and California is working to ensure that school children are provided these essential meals every day.

The following meal programs are provided by California in order to help children receive meals daily:

  • National school lunch program in California
  • School breakfast program in California
  • Special milk program in California
  • State meal program in California
  • Seamless summer feeding option in California
National School Lunch Program in California

The National School Lunch program is a federally funded program that aims to provide reasonably-prices nutritious lunches for children during school. The program is a convenient way for parents to provide a low-priced, balanced lunch for their child. Balanced meals contribute to children’s mental and physical health, which leads to more attentiveness in class, less attendance issues and fewer disciplinary problems. All children enrolled in school are able to apply for free or reduced lunch. Eligibility to participate in the program is contingent upon family size and income. Records will be kept on file to verify that all state and federal regulations are met. A family’s current household income will be checked for eligibility purposes. Private and public schools can participate in the National School Lunch Program. Schools provide parents with school lunch applications at the start of each academic year, and parents are able to apply for free and reduced lunch at any time during the school year.

School Breakfast Program in California

Households can often be hectic in the morning and children may miss out on breakfast. Not eating breakfast can effect a child’s whole day because he or she may turn to unhealthy snacks or may not be able to eat anything until lunch time. Hunger makes students less focused during class and can lead to discipline issues. The School Breakfast Program is a federally funded program that aims to provide nutritious school breakfast to students to help them start their day healthy and alert. Meals are offered at reasonable prices and can be reduced or even free in some cases.

Special Milk Program in California

Good nutrition is key in childhood development and the Special Milk Program provides a nutritious beverage for children that helps improve academic performance. Parents can feel comforted knowing that his or her child is receiving a healthy drink at a low cost when he or she is away from the family home. Fat-free and low-fat milk containing vitamins A and D is offered to students. Lactose-free and reduced lactose milk is also available under the Special Milk Program. High fat milk is not covered under this program. There are two Special Milk programs that schools can participate in. Non-pricing programs include the cost of milk in tuition or camping fees. This option allows all children enrolled in the school to automatically receive Special Milk Program benefits. Pricing programs make the purchase of milk optional by separating the price of milk from other mandatory school expenses. Children can qualify for free milk if their family’s income and size fall under federal and state program requirements.

State Meal Program in California

California funds the State Meal Program which provides money to schools that serve nutritious meals at reduced prices or for free. These meals are provided to children in need according to the state meal mandate qualifications. This program provides one nutritional meal each day to participating children. The meal often includes fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and milk. Schools will distribute meals in such a way that it is not obvious that a child is receiving free or reduced lunch. In order for schools to be reimbursed for the meals they provide, nutritious meals must be available to all students, not just children from low-income families.

Seamless Summer Feeding Option in California

When children are on summer vacation from school, their daily meal structure changes. The Seamless Summer Feeding Option offers parents a way to provide their children with one or two meals a day and a safe place to play during times when their child would normally have been in school. California offers several site types that children can visit to receive meals. Sites are established in need-based areas and have different guidelines for meal distribution. All sites follow the same nutritional guidelines for meal preparation. Children who participated in the free or reduced lunch program during the school year are immediately eligible to participate in the Seamless Summer Feeding Program. Some sites are open to all children in the community who are enrolled in school and under the age of 18.