Skip to main content

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom Highlight California Child Nutrition Programs During School Visit

LOS ANGELES, California, May 8, 2024 – Today, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom visited Sotomayor Academies in Los Angeles to spotlight efforts by the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure all children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while at school and spotlight the California Farm to School and universal school meals initiatives.

The visit highlighted farm-to-school efforts underway in California and the role school meals can play in supporting local and regional food systems, mitigating climate change impacts, and providing healthy food to students. It comes just weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rolled out new nutritional standards for school meals based the latest science-based recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“USDA is proud to have a strong partner in the state of California in enhancing child nutrition programs so that they continue to serve as one of the most powerful tools in a child’s future,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Ensuring children have consistent access to nutritious food is not only good for their education, but for the future of our nation. I applaud the state of California for their efforts to expand access to healthy meals for all students while supporting local farmers and businesses.”

“Together, California Farm to School and Universal School Meals provide students with two free nutritious, delicious, and locally sourced school meals daily,” said First Partner Siebel Newsom. “This nation-leading strategic focus on childhood nutrition puts the well-being of California’s children first as it lays the foundation for healthier bodies and sharper minds, fueled by nourishing, wholesome, real food.”

Secretary Vilsack and First Partner Siebel Newsom were joined at Sotomayor Academies by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross, Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho and Kat Taylor, a social impact investor. During the visit, they met with child nutrition experts and saw firsthand the positive impact California’s leadership on school meals has meant for students.

California has taken significant actions to strengthen their school meal programs, including:

  • In 2022, California became one of the first states to implement universal meals for children at school. Through their Universal Meals Program, the state is building on USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which provide meals to 30 million school children. As of May 2024, eight states have instituted policies to provide healthy school meals at no cost to all students. Expanding those policies nationwide is a key goal of the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which committed to ending hunger, improving nutrition, and ending diet-related disease by 2030.
  • Nationwide, USDA’s Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program helps school meal operators incorporate local foods into meal programs. Launched in 2019, California Farm to School connects school districts with local farms, so they can procure fresh and delicious produce for school meals. To date, the initiative is benefiting over 1.5 million public school students in California at over 163 educational entities.
  • Through efforts spearheaded by First Partner Siebel Newsom, California Farm to School has committed to expanding the use of locally grown commodities in school meals and hands-on food education to up to 80% of California students by 2030. The commitment was made by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as part of the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities. In pursuit of this expansion, CDFA has partnered with school administrators and built partnerships with local producers and growers to maximize the quantity of locally-sourced produce in California schools.
  • USDA has also partnered with the California Department of Education (CDE) under the Local Food for Schools (LFS) Program. In 2022, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service signed a $23 million cooperative agreement with CDE to purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools while strengthening partnerships with local producers and agricultural operations.
  • Additionally, California has signed on to participate in the inaugural year of USDA’s Summer EBT program, which provides qualifying students $120 in grocery benefits to families to purchase food during the summer months when child food insecurity is at its highest.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.