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San Diego Unified Addresses Concerns Regarding New Public Charge Rule, Encourages Families to Continue With Free and Reduced Lunch


The San Diego Unified School District is encouraging families to continue to apply for federally subsidized meals under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, which are available to students regardless of their citizenship status.

Superintendent Cindy Marten addressed implications of the new Public Charge Rule, and potential consequences to student health and nutrition on Wednesday. She was joined by Board President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, board members Richard Barrera and Michael McQuary, San Diego Unified Food and Nutrition Services Director Gary Petill, and representatives from the Hunger Coalition, and San Diego Food Bank.

“We want every single child who qualifies for a free or reduced price lunch to apply. No student should ever go hungry because of concerns about immigration status. Applying for a free school lunch will not keep you from getting a green card. There has been widespread fear and concern in the community over the recent announcement by the Trump administration. On the question of school lunches, at least, we are able to put everyone’s mind at ease. Free and reduced school lunches do not count against your public charge score. If you qualify, you should apply,” Marten said.

The Department of Homeland Security announced in August that a final Public Charge Inadmissibility Rule would be used to determine an individual’s likelihood of becoming a public charge (an individual who may rely on public benefits). The new rule includes previously excluded programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Individuals participating in the SNAP program can be denied permanent residences in the U.S. (green card). Changes to the Public Charge go into effect in October.

“We are committed to providing healthy school meals and snacks to the students of San Diego Unified in order to support student academic success and promote healthful eating habits that lead to lifelong positive nutrition practices,” said Gary Petill, San Diego Unified’s Director of Food and Nutrition.

San Diego Unified’s Food and Nutrition Services serves 101,341 healthy school meals and snacks at no cost to 80,764 students,per day. To learn more about the district’s Food and Nutrition Services or to apply for federally subsidized meals, please visit

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