Lawmakers, teachers call on Gov. Hochul to include free school meals in upcoming budget
Lawmakers, parents and teachers called on Gov. Kathy Hochul Friday to include free food for school students in an upcoming budget.
Free School Meals for All Students in New York is an idea many hope will become a reality.
"I think it's very important for every child to come to school with a full belly, and I think my kids do the best learning when they're full and not distracted," said Ossining parent Christine Mangiamele. She also serves on the school board and has two kids within the Ossining School District.
"I feel like we do have students in our school district that fall through the cracks. They can't file that paperwork to get that free, reduced lunch that they might otherwise qualify for. And a program like this ensures those children still get fed and still get to eat lunch," Mangiamele added. She and school district leaders from across the Hudson Valley agree.
"It's easy, you choose our children," said White Plains City School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca.
"This is a social and emotional imperative," said Clarkstown Central School District Superintendent Dr. Marc Baiocco.
Elected officials, state lawmakers and the Healthy School Meals for All New York Kids Coalition were at the Claremont School in Ossining calling on Hochul to fully fund universal free school breakfast and lunch in the 2024 state budget.
Both the New York State Assembly and Senate have already outlined $280 million to make it happen.
"We need to get rid of the stigma and allow every child to be fed breakfast and lunch. Isn't that sort of a no-brainer?" said Sen. Shelley Mayer.
A spokesperson for Hochul told News 12, "Governor Hochul's Executive Budget makes transformative investments to make New York more affordable, more livable and safer, and she looks forward to working with the legislature on a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers."
For now, advocates, educators and others will wait to see whether this proposal will officially be served up in next year's budget.
A COVID-19 era effort ended last June that provided federal funding for students to have free meals.