Updates to Food Service and Nutrition Laws Affecting Students

Lozano Smith Client News Brief
November 2018
Number 67

Numerous California laws surrounding food service funding and nutritional guidelines for school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education are set to change next school year. Assembly Bills (AB) 2271 and 3043 will increase or expand the use of available state funding for food service equipment and other food services, and will modify certain pupil nutrition guidelines.

Existing State Aid Expansion and New State Matching Grant for Equipment

Existing state law requires public schools with students in grades K-12 to provide one nutritionally-adequate meal each school day to each student eligible for a free or reduced-price meal. The school is authorized to use funds available from any federal program, including the federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP), or state program, to comply with these meal requirements.

Starting July 1, 2019, contingent upon appropriation by the Legislature and allocations provided by the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act, AB 2271 will require the California Department of Education (CDE) to provide a state matching grant of up to $100,000 to a school food authority participating in the NSLP that applies for and is awarded a federal Equipment Assistance Grant for School Food Authorities. A "school food authority" is the governing body that is responsible for the administration of one or more schools and that has the legal authority or approval to operate the NSLP at that school or schools, which is usually a school district board or county board of education. The state appropriation will be for a minimum of two years, and the school food authority may use the federal and state grants for up to five individual school sites, or combine the federal and state grants for one purpose, such as creating a centralized industrial kitchen. The state matching grant must be competitively awarded, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and must align with the federal Equipment Assistance Grant requirements.

Expanded use of Cafeteria Funds

Existing law prohibits expenditures from a school district's cafeteria fund to pay costs associated with cafeteria or kitchen facilities, but starting July 1, 2019, AB 3043 will authorize districts to use cafeteria funds to purchase mobile food trucks, which will expand student access to meals.

Additionally, starting on July 1, 2019, AB 3043 will allow school districts, county offices of education, private nonprofit schools, charter schools, and residential child care institutions (together, educational entities) that participate in the federal School Breakfast Program to provide universal breakfast, meaning for all students, and use the entity's cafeteria fund to cover the costs. Educational entities that do not currently qualify to provide universal meals must submit specific documentation to CDE prior to using their cafeteria fund to pay for school breakfast programs, certifying that the entity will provide breakfasts at no charge to all pupils and cover costs of providing those breakfasts above the amount provided in federal reimbursement with nonfederal funds.

Pupil Nutrition Guidelines

Prior to AB 3043, the Education Code required CDE to maintain nutrition guidelines according to the California Daily Food Guide. Beginning July 1, 2019, the nutrition guidelines for breakfast and lunch must instead mirror nutrition guidelines for federal School Breakfast Program, and the NSLP, respectively, which are based on more recent nutrition studies.

If you have any questions about AB 2271 or AB 3043 or about other laws applicable to educational entities, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.
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As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.