All New York City students will now receive free lunch

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Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced on Wednesday that every child attending a school in New York City would receive free lunch starting this school year.

Last year, 75 percent of New York City students were eligible for free lunch and with this new announcement 200,000 more children will benefit from “Free School Lunch for All.” Every school that participates in SchoolFood, including charter and non-public schools, will be eligible. There are 1.1. million students in the city’s school system.

“Students need healthy meals to stay focused in school, and it is a major step forward that every New York City student will have access to free breakfast and lunch every day,” Fariña said. “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.”

The state recently changed how it identifies families qualified for free lunch — by using other government documentation to find families that benefit from programs like Medicaid and SNAP the city now qualifies for the full level of reimbursement in the federal Community Eligibility Provision.

Other cities such as Boston, Chicago and Dallas provide free school lunches to all students. Initiatives to provide free school lunch have grown as the practice of “lunch shaming” has made headlines.

A 2014 study released by the Department of Agriculture found that 45 percent of school districts declined to give hot meals to students who had not paid their lunch bill and instead gave cold meals and 3 percent of school districts withheld all food from students.

Earlier this summer, a Seattle dad started a GoFundMe campaign to help eliminate school lunch debt for students and raised thousands of dollars to make sure students would not be refused lunch because of outstanding debt.

“Free School Lunch For All will ensure that no child is forced to go to class hungry,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who also chairs the Council Education Committee. “By combatting food insecurity in our public schools, we help students keep their minds focused on their studies. This holistic approach to education is a proven recipe for success. I hail this progress and will continue to work alongside the administration to move our schools forward.”

All parents are still encouraged to complete a School Meals Form so that schools can receive federal funding for the program. The form must be completed by Dec. 29 and a hard copy will be mailed to every household.

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