Printable View    sign in

NewsroomThe latest CSBA news, blog posts, publications, research and resources for members and the news media

State’s leading education organizations urge Governor to veto legislation that would jeopardize California’s universal school meals program


SB 490 would subject local educational agencies to price gouging and increase purchasing cost for school meals by up to 25 percent

A coalition of education leadership associations, school nutrition advocacy groups, local school districts and county offices of education is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto Senate Bill 490 (Caballero, D-Merced), a well-intentioned but harmful measure that would endanger California’s universal school meals program.

An earlier bill with similar provisions, SB 1308, died in the Legislature this summer due to strong advocacy from the California School Boards Association, (CSBA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) and local educational agencies (LEAs) like the Los Angeles Unified School District. The organizations opposed the bill because its provisions would have exposed schools to price gouging from vendors and established pricing thresholds that don’t apply to other public entities. The same ill-conceived concept was then resurrected as SB 490 and its supporters slid the legislation through the end-of-session rush when hundreds of bills are considered in a matter of days. It’s imperative that Gov. Newsom stop this end run and veto SB 490.

SB 490 would force LEAs to accept bids for domestically grown agricultural products and prohibit them from buying non-domestic products unless there is insufficient supply, quality or the price is more than 25 percent less than an equivalent domestic product — far more than the 5 percent standard in place for all other state entities. This unreasonable standard would render schools vulnerable to price gouging from vendors who could simply increase their prices to just under the 25 percent threshold. It would also prompt an explosion in costs just as school nutrition programs begin expanding free meal access, endangering the state’s goal of providing universal meals to all students.

“SB 490 would place costly restrictions on schools and strip them of options in the marketplace, thereby inflating costs, diverting money from the classroom and complicating implementation of the universal school meal program,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “It’s unfair to require that TK-12 schools, community colleges and our state university systems pay up to five times the price for goods that other state agencies do amidst rising costs nationally that are challenging voters, local governments and businesses alike.”

CCSESA has calculated that SB 490 would cost an additional $474 million, or $85 per student. This is an unacceptable increase at a time when rising costs and substantial inflation have already placed a strain on school budgets.

In addition, SB 490 adds unnecessary tracking and reporting requirements that are nearly impossible to fulfill given the disarray of the supply chain and the burdens already placed on school nutrition staff. Supply chain issues experienced across the country mean products are frequently delayed — often remaining at ports for weeks at a time — and substitutions are rampant. A food service director might order blueberries only to receive strawberries because their order was filled with what was available. When this occurs, there is no notice given to the program director and no request to change, the product is simply delivered without explanation. Tracking these changes and determining the source of the product is unrealistic. With existing programs currently expanding to accommodate the Legislature’s universal meals mandate, the additional reporting would be extremely onerous to perform and subject schools to potential penalties.

“Los Angeles Unified shares the concerns of other education leaders from across the state who oppose SB 490,” Los Angeles USD Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said. “Over 80 percent of our students are from low-income families. We’re addressing the food insecurity in our community by providing nutritious, healthy food options to every child, and we remain committed to purchasing locally as far as it is feasible. Unfortunately, reimbursements for meals served are minimal, and this bill’s cost implications add to existing increased costs of labor, food and supply chain fatigue. Los Angeles Unified spends approximately $210 million annually on food procurement. We estimate that a 25 percent increase in prices imposed on our purchasing would result in an additional cost to the district of $50 million annually.”



CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts
and county offices of education throughout California.