One of the hardships many Californians dealt with as a result of COVID-19 is food insecurity. Although the state has reopened, it's still a very real problem.
As Assembly Budget Chair, I made sure hunger was addressed in the new state budget. The California Food Bank Association says food insecurity grew 2.5 times in 2020 compared to what it was before the pandemic. With the need still high, we allocated $110 million to help food banks continue their good work so children, seniors, and others can eat.
In addition, we simplified the application process for CalFresh, vital food assistance for income-eligible Californians. With an increase in requests, we provided local counties $33 million in state funding to staff up and administer the program faster. This will get groceries out to families sooner. In addition, counties received $16 million in one-time federal funds to temporarily expand CalFresh to college students.
I'm also proud to announce that the state budget launches the Universal School Meals Program, which offers free breakfast and lunch to all students. This $650 million investment will help increase student attendance and improve their well-being, while also reducing the stigma of free and reduced-priced meals.
Over the summer, I will be sending you more budget highlights to keep you informed of the many great programs that this historic and transformative budget will fund.