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Universal free school lunch getting closer to reality as budget talks continue

New York legislators and Governor Kathy Hochul are close to finalizing an agreement to fund universal school meal costs statewide as part of the ongoing budget negotiations.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated on Monday that the bipartisan-supported measure could be included in the final agreement.


In March, the state Assembly and state Senate proposed allocating $280 million in the budget to provide free meals to students after federal aid approved during the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end. Approximately 800,000 students in New York schools are expected to benefit from the proposal.

Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who sponsored the proposal, highlighted that since the federal program’s conclusion, some students have faced challenges paying for food at school. The federal program offered free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of their families’ income.