This school year, California’s new “School Meals for All” program began. As a student leader serving my school, the city of Irvine, and the California Association of Student Councils, I applaud California for being the first state to provide every K–12 student in our public schools with free breakfast and lunch.
My peers and I rely on school breakfast and lunch every day. Many of my closest friends do not have the time and are not in the financial situation to provide themselves with meals to fuel their school day and concentrate in class. My parents and older sister have full-time jobs, and I struggle to prepare meals for myself with my busy schedule. This new program has alleviated the stress of buying and preparing meals that previously strained students and families.
Additionally, the free school meal program brings together the student body as a community. My friends and I often join the lunch line together, and I enjoy making conversation with my peers as we wait to be served our meals. When everyone receives meals for free, students are more likely to eat at school.
Our state grows the most fruits and vegetables in our country. I’d like to see more fresh California produce in our school meals. My school has a neighboring orchard, yet I receive packaged pineapple at school. It’s not local or sustainable. I urge my school to source more local foods, serve a variety of fruits and vegetables, and reduce packaging waste.
California’s free school meal program has changed my life and transformed the school day for six million students in our state. Without the burden of being responsible for buying and creating nutritional meals for myself, I can better focus on my education and positions as a student leader. Therefore, I believe all states should follow in the footsteps of California.
Kristie To is a high school student in Orange County. She serves in Student Government, her local Youth Advisory Council, and is on the Board of Directors and Executive Branch of the California Association of Student Councils.
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