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ALBANY, N.Y. – The Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids Coalition – a group of more than 280 education, health, labor and anti-hunger advocates – issued the below statement today on the inclusion of funding for free school meals in the FY2024 State Budget.

“We would like to thank the Governor and the Legislature for their leadership on this issue, especially Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, who have been incredible champions for Healthy School Meals for All. However, while we are glad that New York will be expanding access to free school meals, the funding included in this year’s budget still leaves far too many kids hungry and families struggling to make ends meet.

“Ensuring all schools that qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program are able to participate is an important step that will reduce food insecurity, especially in places with the greatest need, but it is not a substitute for universal free school meals. Hundreds of thousands of students in school districts that do not qualify for CEP will still have to pay for meals, and the stigma and other barriers associated with accepting free meals will continue to hold many students back from participating in free school meal programs.

“States across the country, including California, Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, and Minnesota – as well as many of our neighbors – faced a similar choice this year and chose to feed all students. New York has taken a step in the right direction, but there is still more work to do. The Healthy School Meals for All coalition is committed to ensuring all students have access to nutritious meals at school, and we will continue to advocate for full funding for free school meals for all.”

About the Healthy School Meals for All Coalition
The Healthy School Meals for All Coalition is a group of 280+ organizations led by Hunger Solutions New York and Community Food Advocates with funding from the New York Health Foundation (NYHealth).

Community Food Advocates (CFA) is a New York City nonprofit that advocates to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to healthy, affordable, plentiful, and culturally appropriate foods. In 2017, CFA led a coalition of over 200 organizations and elected officials across New York City and State to secure universal free school lunch (UFL) for all of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students. The campaign, Lunch 4 Learning (L4L), has since built on the foundation of city-wide universal free school lunch with high impact policy changes. We are eager to ensure all NYS students are guaranteed free school meals.

Hunger Solutions New York is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger and has worked for over thirty years to maximize school meals throughout New York State. Their targeted outreach and technical assistance has supported over 60 percent of NY schools providing free school meals for all students. Hunger Solutions New York also advocates for federal and state policies to improve access to school meals and has successfully advanced state policies to eliminate the reduced-price copayment, establish statewide unpaid meal balance policies and improve access to school breakfast in high-poverty schools.