California may run out of money to fund school meal programs in the face of rising numbers of students qualifying for free and reduced price meals, says the state’s superintendent of public education. "Without quick action by the governor and the Legislature, districts will be forced to make a series of unacceptable choices to dip further into their own bare-bones budgets, serve less nutritious foods and not comply with California's nationally renowned nutrition standards, or reduce cafeteria staffing," Supt. Jack O'Connell said in a statement. He asked for $31.1 million from the state’s general fund to prevent that.
While the federal government provides the bulk of the subsidies for free/reduced price school meals, California has been supplementing that with an additional 22 cents per meal. However, the fund providing that money was depleted before the school year ended last May, and is projected to run out even earlier this school year because of the increased number of participants. California schools served 4.5% more meals in 2007-08 than they did in 2006-07 and that number is expected to rise again this year.