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Lawmakers pushing hard for free lunches at schools in NY

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New York State lawmakers are urging Governor Kathy Hochul to fund free breakfast and lunch programs for all schools in the 2023 state budget. While low-income students currently qualify for free lunch, many local food service directors say that families who make just above that line can’t afford to pay for lunch, leaving some students without meals.

Last June, federal waivers that provided free school meals for all students expired. As a result, more than 726,000 students in New York lost access to free meals at school, and school meal debt has skyrocketed in some districts.


In response to this crisis, both the Senate and Assembly included $280 million to restore free school meals for all students in their one-house budget bills. However, it is up to Governor Hochul to decide whether or not lunches are fully funded in the new state budget.

NYS Senator Michelle Hinchey of the Hudson Valley area said, “This upfront money will actually save us money in the long run, that’s important but what’s more important is making sure that every student, every child in NYS has breakfast and lunch in schools. Think about it. Anytime any of us is trying to do anything and we’re hungry, even as adults. It’s challenging.”

Over 30 elementary and middle school students delivered empty lunch trays to the governor’s office after a rally in Albany on Tuesday, hoping to urge her to sign off on free meals for all students.

California, Colorado, and Maine already have permanent free school meal programs, and last week, Minnesota joined the list. With the state budget needing to be approved by April 1, New York lawmakers are urging Governor Hochul to fund free breakfast and lunch programs for all students in the upcoming state budget.



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