By Naeisha Rose
As students get into school mode this year and begin learning new subjects as well as prep for exams, they will have one less thing to worry about: lunch.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sept. 7 that all public school students will receive free school lunch no matter where they live or what school they attend through the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program.
That added some 200,000 city students to the list, which means 1.1 million students throughout the entire system can have lunch without any charge.
“We know that students cannot learn or thrive in school if they are hungry all day,” de Blasio said. Free school lunch will not only ensure that every kid in New York City has the fuel they need to succeed, but also further our goal of providing an excellent and equitable education for all students.”
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña agreed.
“Free School Lunch for All will provide financial relief to families and ensure all students are receiving nutritious meals so that they can succeed in the classroom and beyond,” Fariña said.
One in six Queens children and one in five kids throughout the city lived in food insecure households in 2016, according to Hunger Free America.
Hunger Free America is a non-profit national organization, which does research, advocacy and policy work to combat hunger.
“Hunger is an easily forgotten but powerful barrier to education,” said U.S. Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-Jamaica). “Access to a free and healthy meal during the school day removes one more obstacle to success.”
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) said the initiative removes an unnecessary hurdle for students.
“Providing free school lunch for all will eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, remove the stigma associated with free lunch eligibility, improve our children’s health and wellness, and allow students to focus on their schoolwork,” said Grodenchik.
Before he lost the Democratic ticket to Adrienne Adams, former City Council District 28 candidate Richard David, was running to represent Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park and parts of Jamaica, wanted to ensure that lunches at public schools are inclusive by providing more vegetarian options at schools.
New York City is home to 500,000 Hindus from India, Guyana, Trinidad, Bangladesh, Suriname and other parts of the world, and a majority live within City Council District 28, according to David. They mostly receive peanut butter sandwiches and salads at school, said the former public sector worker.
“Being a vegetarian because of religious beliefs, or for health reasons, should not mean your dietary needs are secondary,” David said. “There should be a conscious effort to provide a wholesome vegetarian meal for students who wish to have one.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose