Healthy School Meals

Dear Constituent,  

Two years ago, I led California’s first-in-the-nation effort to provide two free meals a day to all K-12 public school students. Free School Meals for All is now the policy for all of California’s public schools.

It’s no secret that kids do better academically when they don’t have to go school hungry. Our universal meals program has quickly became a national model, with six other states having adopted universal school meals and more than 20 others expected to follow.

Two free meals a day for all of our students is a great start, but it’s also important to help ensure that the meals our schools serve are healthy. To that end, I helped secure $600 million in the 2022 Budget Act to upgrade school kitchens so meals could be prepared onsite and secured additional funds so schools could buy healthy, California-grown food and expand the California Farm to School Grant program.

This year, I’ve introduced SB 348, Healthy Meals for Kids. It establishes guidelines for the amount of added sugar and salt these daily meals contain. Ensuring that added sugar and salt meets guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics will help reduce the incidence of diabetes and other health issues that are becoming epidemic among California’s youth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids today are increasingly facing chronic health issues associated with eating meals with too much added sugar, including diabetes, hypertension, and fatty liver disease. From 2001 to 2017, the percentage of young people living with type 2 diabetes soared by 95 percent in the U.S.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report last year showing that added sugar in school meals far exceeded the Dietary Guidelines for Americans standard. Under that standard, no more than 10% of calories from meals should come from added sugar. Currently, 92% of school breakfasts and 69% of school lunches currently exceed the standard.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9 in 10 U.S. children eat more sodium than recommended due to the popularity of processed foods. A high sodium diet, in turn, can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Today, about 1 in 10 kids ages 12-19 has raised blood pressure.

SB 348 is backed by a large coalition of organizations dedicated to improving children’s health and by the advocacy organizations that helped us achieve California’s free school meals for all, including the American Heart Association, California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, California Association of Food Banks, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Eat Real, No Kid Hungry, the Office of Kat Taylor, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

With our abundance of delicious, fresh-grown, nutritious food, California should have the nation’s healthiest children, and SB 348 will put the needs of kids first. It will also ensure that California’s universal school meals program remains a national trendsetter.

It is an honor serving you in the state Senate.



Nancy Skinner
Senator, District 9