New Bill Would Make CA School Lunches Healthier

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 92% of school breakfasts and 69% of school lunches currently exceed the standard dietary guidelines for added sugar. Photo Credit: New Africa / Adobestock

Starting next year, school lunches in California could get a lot healthier if a new bill passes to set guidelines for added sugar.

Senate Bill 348 would limit the amount of added sugar to 25 grams a day.

Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, authored the bill to improve the quality of school lunches, as California now provides two free meals a day to all public school students.

“For many of these kids, that’s more than half the calories they’ll consume in a day,” Skinner pointed out. “We need to make sure that our meals are as healthy as possible and don’t contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes.”

The Biden administration unveiled new guidelines for sugar, salt, fat and whole grains, which will be phased in over the next few years. It marks a reversal from the Trump administration policy, which argued stricter guidelines do little and generate more waste if children reject the healthier options.

Skinner noted the bill also directs the state to study whether kids in school currently have sufficient time at lunch to eat.

“My bill asks to get the data on whether we are providing adequate time for children to eat,” Skinner explained. “And if not, what adjustments would we make?”

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 4 million Californians have diabetes and another 10.3 million have prediabetes.

The bill does not address food sold in vending machines or at school events.