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Why weren’t universal school meals included in Hochul’s budget?

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget released this week failed to propose funding for free school meals for all students, to the disappointment of lawmakers from both major political parties.

The United States Census Bureau reports that one in seven children in the state experience hunger. The Healthy School Meals For All program, which would provide free breakfast and lunch to all public school students, was introduced last month by lawmakers.

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas, the sponsor of the program, said, “You can’t teach a hungry child.”


Universal school meals are estimated to cost the state between $187 million and $201 million per year. Hochul’s budget proposal significantly increased school aid for the second year in a row, reaching the highest level of state aid in history, but failed to include funding for the meals program.

A spokesperson from Hochul’s office stated that the governor believes the federal government should fund the program, but lawmakers vow to fight for funding in the final 2024 FY budget that has a deadline of April 1st.

Several Assembly Republicans recently joined the measure, while Senate Republicans are considering the cost to school districts. Lawmakers and organizations hope to include free school meals in their budget proposals next month.