Last Friday marked the final day for the Governor to sign or veto legislation approved during this year’s legislative session – and WUD was pleased to see AB 558 (Nazarian) was signed into law. Coined the “Child Nutrition Act of 2022” – the bill would increase access to fresh and locally grown dairy products by expanding a state program to allow non-school-aged children to have access to a breakfast or morning snack that is offered through the school meal program.

WUD supported AB 558 because it keeps the focus on improving both the food and nutrition security of young children in California by establishing a program that will allow local educational agencies to serve eligible non-school-aged children breakfast or a morning snack. This type of program helps ensure that more children living in California have additional opportunities to enjoy California-grown, nutrient-rich, locally and minimally processed foods – like dairy milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, beef, fruits, and vegetables – that contribute to their health, growth, and development. Finally, locally sourced, minimally processed foods support California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through ongoing research, innovation, and the steadfast commitment of producers across our great state.

WUD worked diligently over the last two legislative sessions (2021 & 2022) to ensure that the bill was amended to remove language that would have incentivized the purchasing of foods marketed as “plant-based” that could put children’s nutrition security at risk. We also recognize that incentivizing educational agencies to favor plant-based meals over conventional meals would have been detrimental because the prioritization of highly-processed foods is inconsistent with the state’s Farm to School Program, risks diverting funds intended to nourish all California school children, and risks increasing California’s GHG emissions while disadvantaging the state’s agricultural producers.

When programs that increase access to school breakfasts and snacks are combined with smart policies supporting California-grown, locally and minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods, and programs like the California Farm to School Program, we can all be proud of the work we are doing to support the health and well-being of children, support local economies throughout the state, and promote environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and fair labor practices. The passage and signing of AB 558 marks a key legislative win for WUD as the organization led advocacy efforts over the past two years to ensure that California’s school children can access fresh and locally grown dairy products that are critical to the health and wellness of students across the state. •

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