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California State Meal Mandate for 2021-22


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program Operators

Attention: Superintendents, Food Service Directors, Chief Business Officials, and Personnel Officers

Number: SNP-07-2021

Date: September 2021

Reference: California Education Code (EC) sections 47613.5, 49531, 49550; Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), sections 220.8 and 210.10

Supersedes: Management Bulletin (MB) SNP-11-2020

Subject: California’s State Meal Mandate for School Year (SY) 2021–22


The purpose of this MB is to provide guidance on California’s state meal mandate for School Year 2021–22. 

EC Section 49550 requires school districts and county offices of education (COE) to provide nutritionally adequate meals to pupils who are eligible for free and reduced-price (F/RP) meals every school day. EC Section 47613.5 extends this requirement to charter schools. Charter schools offering nonclassroom-based instruction must also offer at least one nutritionally adequate meal for eligible pupils on any school day that the pupil is scheduled for educational activities lasting two or more hours at a school site, resource center, meeting space, or other satellite facility operated by the charter school.

EC Section 49550(c) defines school day as any day that pupils in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, are attending school for purposes of classroom instruction, including, but not limited to, pupil attendance at minimum days, state-funded preschool, transitional kindergarten, summer school including incoming kindergarten pupils, extended school year days, and Saturday school sessions.

A nutritionally adequate meal (breakfast and lunch) must meet the federal meal pattern requirements and is defined in EC Section 49531 as the following:

A nutritionally adequate breakfast is one that qualifies for reimbursement under the most current meal pattern requirement for the federal School Breakfast Program, as defined in 7CFR, Section 220.8. A nutritionally adequate lunch is one that qualifies for reimbursement under the most current meal pattern for the federal National School Lunch Program, as defined in 7CFR, Section 210.10.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1. What is the minimum amount of time that a student has to be in school in order for the state meal mandate to apply?

A.1. EC Section 49550(c) does not specify a minimum number of hours. If students are receiving classroom-based instruction, the state meal mandate applies.

Q.2. Under what circumstances does the state meal mandate apply to nonclassroom-based charter schools?

A.2. Nonclassroom-based charter schools must comply with the state meal mandate requirements and offer a free meal to needy pupils who are scheduled for educational activities, as defined in EC Section 49010, lasting two or more hours at a school site, resource center, or other satellite facility operated by the charter school.

Q.3. Does the state meal mandate still apply if a school district, COE, or charter school does not receive any federal or state child nutrition funds?

A.3. Yes. EC sections 49550 and 47613.5 govern the need for and provision of school meals, regardless of a district’s, COE’s, or charter school’s participation in a reimbursable meal program. Therefore, every school district, COE, and charter school must formulate a plan to determine eligibility, make applications for F/RP meals available at all times during the regular school day, and serve meals without discrimination or separation.

Q.4. Does the state meal mandate apply to eligible distance learners?

A.4. No. The state law established by Senate Bill 98 in June 2020, in response to COVID-19, required school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to provide nutritionally adequate meals to eligible distance learners. This requirement expired on June 30, 2021.

However, to meet the nutritional needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic, program operators are encouraged to continue to provide access to meals to students that are engaged in distance learning or independent study through the Seamless Summer Option for School Year 2021‒22. Federal waivers for noncongregate feeding and meal time flexibility allow program operators the ability to serve all students, regardless of their chosen learning model.

Please note that an updated MB that addresses the 2022–23 SY California Universal Meals Program established under Assembly Bill 130 will be issued in the future.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding the subject, please contact your county’s School Nutrition Program (SNP) Specialist. A list of SNP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System, Form ID Caseload. You can also contact the SNP Unit Office Technician, by phone at 916-322-3005 or 800-952-5609, Option 2, to be directed to your SNP Specialist.

 Kim Frinzell, Director

 Nutrition Services Division

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 23, 2022
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