Calling for fully funded free school meals for all students

Approximately 243,000 students on Long Island would benefit


As $280 million in funding for universal free school meals is included in both the Senate and Assembly budget proposals, legislators, school administrators, and parents from Long Island joined the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island and the Nassau-Suffolk School Board Association, in partnership with the Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids Coalition, at Jefferson Primary School, in Huntington, at 10 a.m., on Friday, March 24, to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to address the crisis of childhood hunger in schools by fully funding a statewide, permanent Healthy School Meals for All program in the FY2024 state budget. The week prior, Minnesota became the eighth state to fund free school meals for all students.

In June, federal waivers, which provided free school meals for all students, expired. As a result, more than 726,000 students in New York lost access to free meals at school, and families’ school meal debt has skyrocketed. This loss hit Long Island especially hard, with nearly 243,000 students in Nassau and Suffolk counties losing access to free school meals this year. 

Both the Senate and Assembly included $280 million to restore free school meals for all students in their one-House budget bills. Now it is in the hands of Hochul to ensure HSMFA is fully funded in the FY2024 state budget.  

The comprehensive event included remarks by the following speakers:

Rebecca Sanin, president/CEO, Health & Welfare Council of Long Island: “Long Island parents, schools, and communities are fiercely committed to advancing healthy school meals for all children in New York State. In a time in which hunger is on the rise and families face many post-pandemic challenges, ensuring that our youngest New Yorkers are provided with nutritious meals not only impacts health, educational, and psychological outcomes for children; it also reduces stress and promotes healthy families, a key priority for New York State.”

NYS Sen. Dean Murray: “It is imperative that we do all we can to ensure that no child in New York State has to fight through a school day with an empty and growling stomach. In a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars, there is absolutely no excuse for us to not find the funding for healthy meals for all children. I applaud everyone who is fighting for such an important issue and assure you that you can certainly count me as a strong ally in this fight.”

NYS Sen. Monica Martinez: “As an educator and fierce advocate for children, I am well aware of the importance of championing healthy meals for our students. Research shows when students are nourished, they perform better on tests, there is a reduction of absenteeism, and there’s an increase in memory retention. I am excited to support this important initiative and provide an opportunity to improve the lives and the overall health and welfare of our children throughout our great state.”

NYS assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre: “I am a proud co-sponsor of the Healthy School Meals for All legislation and will continue fighting tooth and nail to ensure this common-sense policy is included in the final enacted New York State budget, because our children are depending on us to fight for their future and to ensure that our state budget reflects the values and principles we hold dear, which includes making sure our babies are nourished with what they need to succeed in our classrooms.”

NYS assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas: “The majority of children who lost access to school meals when a federal waiver expired reside on Long Island. I believe that these families deserve the same access to healthy breakfast and lunch as any child across our state. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the state Senate and Assembly who have supported my bill with Sen. Hinchey to make schools free across the state. We know food insecurity disproportionately impacts Black and Brown children and is a matter of racial justice, which is why the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus and its chair, assemblywoman Solages, have made this a priority issue in the budget. We call on Gov. Hochul to fully fund this bipartisan supported proposal so we can ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in New York.”

For nearly two years, during the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding ensured students universal access to free school meals. This ended in June 2022. As a result, more than 726,000 students across New York lost access to free meals, and school meal debt skyrocketed. This loss hit Long Island especially hard, with nearly 243,000 students in Nassau and Suffolk counties losing access to free school meals.


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