A free lunch for all New York middle school students, regardless of income certification? In New York City?
Yes, the $75 billion plan for education includes the beginning of offering free lunch for all 1.1 million students enrolled in the system. This will expand a programs that is currently only available to the city’s poorest children.
An additional $6.25 million a year will become available in September, ensuring that all 177,000 students in middle school will qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program currently only available to families who certify that their income is 130 percent of the $30,615 poverty level for a family of four.
The elimination of shame and embarrassment keeing many children who qualify for the free lunches but do nt receive them is a goal of those who are expanding the program. According to the New York Times, about 780,000 city students are poor enough to be eligible, but only about 250,000 participate.
“Many students who do qualify for free lunch often do not take advantage of it for fear of the stigma they face,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, D, who predicted that future budgets would grant all city children free lunch. “Universal free lunch would eliminate that stigma and help ensure that all students have access to a nutritious meal at school.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, D, resisted efforts by the council to spend $24 million to extend the program to all students. The mayor, who took office Jan. 1 vowing to fight income inequality, said he needed to balance that goal with fiscal responsibility.
New York’s free-lunch program cost $425 million last year, with the city paying about $23 million and the federal government contributing more than $375 million, according to Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget. The state contributed about $10 million, and an additional $16 million came from miscellaneous revenue.