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ALBANY, N.Y. – The Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids Coalition – a group of more than 250 education, health, labor and anti-hunger advocates – issued the below statement today celebrating the inclusion of $280 million in funding for universal free school meals in the Assembly and Senate one-house budget bills.

“We are thrilled that the Assembly and Senate included $280 million in funding for Healthy School Meals for All in their one-house budget bills. Now it is time for Governor Hochul to take action for hungry children and struggling families by working with the legislature to ensure this critical policy is fully funded in the final FY2024 State budget.

“Universal free school meals is a proven policy that reduces food insecurity, supports student success, increases equity in schools, and supports families that are struggling to make ends meet. Since federal funding for universal free school meals expired in June, students have gone to class hungry and school meal debt has skyrocketed. These challenges have impacted families across the state, with particularly significant negative impacts on communities of color, rural areas, and Long Island and other suburban regions.

“Our peers and neighbors have acted. California, Colorado, Nevada, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont have already implemented Healthy School Meals for All. There is unprecedented broad, diverse, multi-sector support on this issue, with nearly 90 percent of New Yorkers supporting the policy and strong bipartisan support in the legislature.

“New York cannot afford to fall further behind in the fight to end food insecurity. The legislature has made their support for Healthy School Meals for All clear. We call on Governor Hochul to work with the Senate and Assembly to ensure this crucial lifeline for hungry kids and struggling families is fully funded in the final FY2024 State budget.”

About the Healthy School Meals for All Coalition

The Healthy School Meals for All Coalition is a group of 250+ 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.