Proposed bill could give thousands of San Diego students free meals

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - California lawmakers want to make it easier for kids to get free and reduced meals during the school year because many are missing out.

Senator Mike McGuire has proposed SB 138, also known as the 'Feed the Kids Act'. If passed, it would mean any low-income student receiving California Medicaid benefits would automatically be enrolled in the free and reduced school meal program.

Diane Wilkinson, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the San Diego Hunger Coalition, says the bill would help provide meals to thousands of San Diego students.

"One in three Californians is enrolled in Medi-Cal, so it takes that data that we already have in the system and it seamless transmits it to the California Department of Education, which would use that information to enroll them in the free and reduced meals," said Wilkinson.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ran a pilot study in 14 districts, including San Diego Unified, and says it was a big success.

"This eliminates a lot of error, it eliminates a lot of paperwork requirements for students as well as school districts," said Wilkinson.

Statewide, the California Department of Education believes an additional 500,000 elementary, middle school and high school students would start receiving school meals under the new process.

Funding for the additional meals would come from the USDA and state-funded reimbursements.

According to Sen. McGuire's office, the bill would also allow for very high poverty schools to serve meals to all students for free. They say increased enrollment of low-income students in the free meal program would result in schools qualifying for a federal meal reimbursement program.

The bill has passed the California Senate and has a hearing in the Assembly next week.

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