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“SUN Bucks” Meal Program to Expand Summer Access of Universal Meals for California’s Students


SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today commended the launch of SUN Bucks, a new federally funded food program designed to ensure that qualified children have adequate nutrition while in school, is available for the summer. This new program is being implemented by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) in partnership with the California Department of Education (CDE).

SUN Bucks will provide $120 in food benefits per child to supplement summer meal programs with direct support to students’ households. Most qualified children are automatically enrolled and will receive EBT cards in the mail.

“I am very proud that California is among the first states in the nation to issue SUN Bucks benefits to our youth. As someone who depended on government assistance in order to combat childhood hunger, I know how critical it is to ensure that our children have access to food that supports their healthy growth and development. We know that the nutritional needs of our students do not take a break when school lets out,” Thurmond said. “The combination of SUN Bucks and the California Universal School Meals Program shows our children that we are committed to showing up for them year-round.”

Most families will not need to take action to receive SUN Bucks. Children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals (FRPM) through a school meal application or an Alternative Income Form, or who get CalFresh, CalWORKs, or Medi-Cal, are automatically enrolled. The EBT cards are scheduled to arrive in the mail beginning June 2024 through fall 2024 and can be used like CalFresh benefits to purchase groceries. Every SUN Bucks card will be loaded with the full $120 per child.

Additional information can be found on the California Department of Social Services SUN Bucks web page.

In addition to SUN Bucks, Summer Meal Programsprovide opportunities for children in needy communities to access meals during the summer months. The California Department of Education provides an app that families can use to locate summer meal sites in their communities. Visit CA Meals for Kids App to download the app and learn more.

As a former student who depended on free lunch programs, food stamps, and government supports, Superintendent Thurmond knows how vitally important these programs are to student health and learning. He has championed efforts to make sure students in California and across the country have access to healthy, nutritious school meals. Ensuring children have consistent access to meals that support their health and well-being is a key aspect of the Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health(PDF), which includes a commitment to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases and health disparities by 2030. Thurmond also advocates for increased funding for farm-to-school programs that help support local purchasing and improve the quality and freshness of school meals. Expanding this program could boost the purchasing power of schools, support local economics, and ensure the availability of fresh foods for our students.

Thurmond sponsored Universal Meals legislation as a key part of his Transforming School Initiatives. In 2022, California became the first state in the nation to implement a Universal Meals Program in which all children are eligible to receive a free breakfast and lunch regardless of their individual eligibility. Under the Universal Meals Program, public schools, county offices of education, and charter schools can offer breakfast and lunch to all students during school days, including summer school.

For more information about the California Universal Meals Program, visit the CDE Universal Meals web page. For more information about summer meals, visit the CDE Summer Meal Service Sites web page.


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