San Rafael City Schools Students Chow Down On Free Meals


Miles Hatch, Contributor

A line of students runs through the new student commons building and into the quad at San Rafael High School. The new free meal plan that San Rafael City Schools is providing at its schools allows these students to eat free nutritious meals. As kids filter out into the quad during brunches and lunches, their lunch trays are full.

When asked about the free food being offered at San Rafael High School, senior Cash Evans said, “It’s very stress-relieving.”

San Rafael High School has a large proportion of low-income families who rely on the school to feed their kids. Being able to provide nutritious food for free to students without the need for families to disclose personal information is extremely important in reducing the stigma around food. 

“Nobody should feel ashamed that they need a basic thing like food,” said Robin Larson, the Production Kitchen Manager for SRCS.

California, as well as the rest of the nation, faces challenges with food insecurity, with 1 in 7 children in California facing hunger according to Feeding America.

Larson oversees the production of foods for the district. She continued, “Not everybody has access to food at their house, so providing it at school, it’s so wonderful.”

The move towards free food comes during one of the most difficult times members of the community have faced. The pandemic, which has affected everyone differently, has hit low-income families especially hard.

During the start of the pandemic, San Rafael City Schools operated under the Summer Seamless Option, a meal plan usually reserved for summer alone. Alan Downing, the director of nutrition at SRCS wrote, “The Summer Seamless Option allows all people 18 and under to eat for free.”

This option allowed SRCS to help those who needed it the most during the pandemic as schools operated as meal providers. Now it is being used to further build the relationship between the schools and their students. 

The Summer Seamless Option currently provides two free meals to all students on campus. It also doesn’t require personal information to be provided by families, a factor that previously prevented some students from accessing food at all.

Downing wrote, “Compared to our last Normal August (19-20 school year) we are up almost 700 lunch meals and 200 breakfast meals per day of participation.”

The increased participation in daily meals indicates that this change was both necessary and effective.

While SRCS operates under Summer Seamless Option this year, California has big plans for the coming years.

The “Free School Meals For All Act” bill is set to be enacted in the 2022-23 school year. California plans to provide all public school students, a number over 6 million, with two free meals everyday. This unprecedented bill is the first of its kind at the state level.

Providing students, regardless of economic status, has become increasingly more important, especially recently. These new programs represent a push for equality in schools and provide optimism for the future of food in schools.