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Albany, New York—The Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids coalition—a group of more than 290 education, health, labor and anti-hunger advocates—issued the below statement today on FY2025 State Budget:

The only way to have a truly inclusive, equitable, and streamlined school meals program is by making school meals free for all students. Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids would reduce hunger and stigma, improve learning, and provide much-needed financial relief for families.

A patchwork approach to free school meals—offering to some, but not all students—is not enough. The FY2025 state budget leaves more than 320,000 children in nearly 660 schools without access to the far-reaching benefits of universal school meals. In the absence of a universal meal program, a family of four earning just $56,000 remains ineligible for free school meals. This means working families who are struggling to make ends meet are left without relief.

Tying students’ access to free school meals to their household income is inherently flawed. We do not ask families if they can afford their own transportation, textbooks, or technology before providing students with these essential resources—the same should be true for school meals. The bottom line is that when schools operate means-tested programs, it undermines the culture of inclusivity in New York schools.

The FY2025 state budget sustains funding that expanded access to free school meals to more than 347,000 additional students starting this school year. We thank lawmakers for sustaining New York’s historic investment in the federal Community Eligibility Provision, an important step toward Healthy School Meals for All. We are especially grateful to Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas for their unwavering support.

Our coalition remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure New York becomes the next state to ensure all students have access to free school meals. The solution to ensuring equitable access to school meals is simple: feed all the kids. New York can and must fully fund Healthy School Meals for All New York Kids.