State Bill Aims to Make Preschool and Child Care Hunger Free
(SACRAMENTO) - In order to ensure no child goes hungry, Assemblymembers Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced AB 842, a bill that would provide low-income children in preschool and child care with the same access to free and reduced-price meals as all other public school students.
Children need nutritious meals every day to grow, develop, and thrive. Nearly one quarter of California’s families can’t afford to meet their basic needs. Recognizing this, California passed a law in 1975 to protect school-age children from hunger by guaranteeing that all eligible, low-income students would have access to at least one free or low-cost meal each school day. Today, low-income children enrolled in the state’s preschool program and subsidized child care are the only public school students not protected under the law.
“As we work to expand access to preschool and child care, we need to make sure the basic needs of low-income families are front and center: whether in preschool or child care, low-income children need and deserve access to healthy meals,” said Assemblymember Limón. “Healthy nutrition is vital for a child’s present and future well-being and academic success.”
AB 842 would also extend the same financial support that school districts receive for serving meals to preschool and child care providers. Since 1975, California has supplemented the meager federal reimbursement for school meals. California has some of the country’s highest living and labor costs, yet the federal assistance offered for serving meals is the same for California as it is for all other, less expensive states. This disparity makes supplemental funding in California crucial to school districts and child care.
“We have been making strategic investments to build up our child care system, but funding for school meals has not kept up. When our preschool and child care providers don’t have adequate funds for food, we undermine our own efforts to increase funding for early education,” said Assemblymember Talamantes Eggman.
Early care and education programs in California have a unique opportunity to help keep our children healthy while also providing our most important teachers with the resources they need to provide high quality care to young children. AB 842 will help build the capacity of our early care and education system to prevent hunger, break the cycle of poverty, and close the achievement gap by supporting access to meals for our youngest learners.
“There is a reason our state has invested in school meals for decades. It only makes sense to start the investment earlier, during a critical stage of children’s development,” said Tracey Patterson, Director of Engagement and Strategy at California Food Policy Advocates, a cosponsor of the bill. “AB 842 will help prevent California’s youngest learners from going hungry.”
Monique Limón represents the 37th Assembly District which includes Santa Barbara, Ventura, Goleta, Carpinteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Buellton, Solvang, Summerland, Isla Vista, Montecito and parts of Oxnard. She currently serves as Chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee.
CONTACT: Christina Montoya, 916-319-2037