As a result of California’s universal school meals program, and other state and federal initiatives, the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) offered free meals to all students throughout the 2022-2023 school year. Cafeterias across the district were able to serve over 3.1 million breakfast, lunch, and after-school meals to TK-12 students at no cost to families.
This program is part of a statewide initiative to increase student access to nutritious meals. Following the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) committed to reimbursing school districts for free meals served in the 2021-2022 school year. California then rolled out an updated state meal mandate for the 2022-2023 year, which required schools to provide any student two meals a day free of charge regardless of their family’s financial status.
In the 2021-2022 school year, PYLUSD served just over 2.7 million meals supported by USDA funds. This was a marginal increase from the 2.3 million meals served during the 2018-2019 school year when meals were not offered to all students at no cost. The new program has allowed the district to reach a broader group of students, serving nearly one million more meals in the 2022-2023 school year than in its pre-pandemic year.
Suzanne Morales, the district’s Director of Nutrition Services, shared that her department is proud to play such a significant role in the school day for students. “Adequate and nutritious food is essential to fuel students during the learning process. Our meals provide them with the energy and nutrients they need to focus, learn, and excel inside and outside the classroom. It is our goal to ensure that all students have access to healthy meals.”
The district’s Nutrition Services Department is dedicated to its mission of “Feeding Hungry Minds.” Nutritious meals are crucial for a child’s health and development, and school meals must follow strict USDA nutritional guidelines. As a result, school meals are among the healthiest that students receive each day. The positive effects of these meals carry over into a student’s school life, as research shows that proper nourishment leads to higher test scores and increased school attendance. The district’s investment in nutrition offers a free and convenient option all without sacrificing the flavor for students.
All meals for the 2023-2024 school year will continue to be free. All families are encouraged to fill out an extended benefit form to access additional resources, and to ensure that the district receives all possible resources available to support students. For more information about Nutrition Services, visit www.pylusdnutrition.org.