A bill has been introduced in the state Assembly to help pay for free and reduced-priced school meals if, as the state education chief has predicted, the 2008-09 budget is not enough.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) is seeking to provide $19.5 million to supplement federal funding of the lunches. The bill, filed Jan. 6, cites overall economic distress, including an increase in home food costs of about 6% in 2008.

Last school year, the state ran out of the money to supplement meals in May, and state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said Thursday that he expects that to happen quicker this year.


The Los Angeles Unified School District could be short more than $10 million this school year, the district said in a statement. More than 75% of L.A. Unified students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.

The federal government provides $2.17 to $2.57 for each free or reduced-price meal, and California provides an additional 22 cents.

-- Mary MacVean