Last spring, as Congress scrambled to make it easier for cafeterias to adapt to the curbside era, it waived limitations on school meals that effectively allowed all schools to provide free food for students, regardless of income. Those flexibilities are scheduled to last through the end of the school year.

The pivot to pickup presented a host of new challenges, but the free lunch policy allowed many newly unemployed parents to pick up meals for their children without filling out any paperwork. Now, as policymakers eye the next school year (and, hopefully, a broad return to the classroom), some are hoping to see the change made permanent. In California, State Senator Nancy Skinner introduced a bill this week that would make school meals free for all public school students and shift schools’ considerable buying power to purchase more fresh food and better support local farmers.

Universal school lunch is not a new idea. Cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago have had the policy in place for years. But if the bill passed, California would be the first state to implement the change. At the same time, support for a similar policy is growing at the federal level: The School Nutrition Association (SNA), an organization that represents school food professionals, issued a position paper last month calling on Congress to consider the issue.

“Once this pandemic passes us, we’re going to continue to face more families struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic, and it’s going to be more important than ever that we make sure children have ready access to healthy school meals.”

Read the full article about free school meals by H. Claire Brown at The Counter.