By Eric Span

Eric Span is the Director of Nutrition Services at Sweetwater Union High School District and lives in Chula Vista.

"Running the second largest secondary school district nutrition program in California during a pandemic — impacted by supply and staffing shortages — has had its challenges and its wins. The last two years stretched everyone across the nation and world, but despite many challenges, here in the Sweetwater Union High School District, located in Chula Vista, the seventh-largest city in Southern California, we successfully served 8.74 million meals to our students.

During the pandemic, Congress provided relief by passing special child nutrition waivers, which allowed schools more flexibility in service and meal preparation, in addition to reducing the administrative paperwork that comes with distributing meals to millions of students. We are hopeful Congress will extend the waivers that expire this week as the food supply chain is still experiencing challenges.

Last year in California, the Healthy School Meals for All legislation was passed. This means the state will cover the cost of two nutritious meals each day for all children beginning in the 2022-23 school year. Just as every child receives a textbook, each will receive a meal as well with hopes to reduce hunger and remove stigma for students in accessing meals. It is my dream that this becomes a national initiative. Our children are worth it!

There is no better way to unify than around a lunch table. And, in a country as great as America, there should be no barriers for students to learning. Those include at the lunch table."

Read the full op-ed at The San Diego Tribune