BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          AB 292 (Santiago) - Pupil nutrition: free or reduced-price  
          meals: adequate time to eat.
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          |Version: June 2, 2015           |Policy Vote: ED. 7 - 2          |
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          |Urgency: No                     |Mandate: Yes                    |
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          |Hearing Date: August 17, 2015   |Consultant: Jillian Kissee      |
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          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.

          Summary:  This bill requires school districts to ensure that  
          each of their schools provide students adequate time to eat  
          after being served a meal, and requires schools that do not  
          provide students with adequate time to eat to develop a plan to  
          increase students' time to eat lunch.  

           Likely mandate: Potentially significant reimbursable mandate  
            costs related to monitoring and compliance for school  
            districts to ensure schools provide adequate time to eat  
            lunch.  (Proposition 98)
           Potential mandate: Potential significant additional  
            reimbursable mandate costs depending upon the Commission on  
            State Mandate's (Commission) interpretation of whether  
            developing and implementing a plan constitutes a mandate.   
            Costs would be related to activities such as purchasing  


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            equipment, making additional points of service, hiring  
            additional staff, and making changes to the school schedule.   
            (Proposition 98)
           Potential offsetting funds: Potential ability to use federal  
            nutrition funds to mitigate costs of the new mandate.   
            However, this could come at the cost of other activities that  
            would have been supported by these funds.  (Federal funds)
           Administration: The California Department of Education (CDE)  
            anticipates minor and absorbable costs related to issuing  
            guidance and providing technical assistance on the new  

          Background:  Current law requires each school district or county  
          superintendent of schools serving kindergarten or any of grades  
          1 to 12, to provide for each needy student one nutritionally  
          adequate free or reduced-price meal during each school day.  
          (Education Code  49550)

          The CDE issued guidance to schools in January 2013, recommending  
          that each student has at least 10 minutes for breakfast and at  
          least 20 minutes for lunch after being served. This guidance  
          cites research indicating that inadequate time to eat  
          discourages students from buying and eating complete lunches.  
          The guidance further states that waiting in line is the most  
          commonly reported factor contributing to student dissatisfaction  
          with lunches.

          Proposed Law:  
            This bill requires school districts to ensure that each school  
          within their jurisdiction makes adequate time to eat available  
          to its students.  This bill provides that adequate time to eat  
          is 20 minutes after being served.  This bill requires that, upon  
          annual review of its bell schedule, if a school determines that  
          it is currently not providing students with adequate time to  
          eat, the school, in consultation with the school district, must  
          develop a plan to implement ways to increase students' time to  
          eat lunch.

          This bill authorizes the appropriate school food authority to  
          use federally or state-regulated nonprofit school food service  
          cafeteria accounts to defray any costs related to providing  
          adequate time for students to eat after being served that is  


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          allowable under federal and state law.

          Legislation:  AB 2449 (Bocanegra, 2014) was nearly identical to  
          this bill and failed passage in this Committee.

          Comments:  This bill imposes a new oversight activity for school  
          districts to ensure adequate time is provided to students to  
          eat.  This is likely to be determined a reimbursable state  
          mandate by the Commission.  The bill specifies that the CDE  
          defines "adequate" as 20 minutes after being served however it  
          is unclear whether this will be the standard school districts  
          will be held to as it is not an explicit requirement.  It is  
          possible that school districts could be reimbursed for  
          activities such as issuing guidelines and monitoring and  
          evaluating schools' compliance.  Even if school districts that  
          currently meet a standard of adequacy, they could claim  
          reimbursement for these activities.  School districts can also  
          aggregate their schools' claims; if even half of the  
          approximately 1,000 school districts claim the $1,000 minimum  
          claim threshold, costs would be $500,000.
          This bill also requires a school, if it determines that it is  
          currently not providing students with adequate time to eat, to  
          consult with its school district to identify and develop a plan  
          to increase students' time to eat lunch.  Schools must make this  
          determination upon annual review of their bell schedules.  Some  
          schools may determine that they are providing students adequate  
          time to eat, regardless of the recommended 20 minute standard.   
          For those that determine that they are not providing adequate  
          time, presumably using their own criteria, they will be required  
          to develop a plan to increase time provided; by how much is  
          unclear.  The Commission could determine that development of the  
          plan and its implementation are reimbursable.  On the other  
          hand, the Commission could determine that allowing students  
          adequate time to eat the meals that schools are already required  
          to serve to them is not a higher level of service, and not  

          Depending upon the Commission's determination, additional  
          reimbursable activities could include: (1) staff time involved  


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          in making the determination as to whether adequate time was  
          provided to eat, including annual review of the schools' bell  
          schedules; (2) staff time of both the school and school district  
          working in consultation to develop the plan; (3) implementation  
          costs such as purchasing additional equipment, increasing  
          staffing, implementing changes in the school's schedules, or,  
          extending the school day.  If these activities are determined to  
          be reimbursable, statewide costs could be very substantial.   
          Just one additional cafeteria worker for 100 schools could run  
          costs in the millions.  

          The Commission may determine that the availability of federal  
          cafeteria funds mitigates some of the mandate costs in this  
          bill.  However, this places pressure on cafeteria funds to be  
          used for activities to increase time provided to eat over other  
          allowable purposes. 

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