Legislator Megan Sperry (District 17 – New Paltz, Rifton), the author of 2022 Resolution No. 493 “Urging New York State Governor And New York State Legislature To Adopt Legislation Guaranteeing Universal Access To Free Meals For Students In Grades K-12,” has expressed renewed optimism that state lawmakers will include funding as part of the FY2024 State Budget.
“For many students in New York, their school lunch is the only nutritious meal they receive each day. The expiration of the federal program at the beginning of this school year removed a vital source of nutrition for many students in our communities. School lunch is critical for the health and well-being of students and can ensure that students have the nutrition they need to be productive learners throughout the school day. With the state covering the cost of this critical need, renewing this program at the state level will allow students to flourish and ease the financial burden on working families. I am encouraged to see our state lawmakers pushing for its inclusion in the Budget,” Sperry stated.
Originally started by the federal government as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free school lunch program expired in August 2022. During the course of this program, over 800,000 New York students were fed in 2,000 schools across the state. Since the federal expiration, several states, including California and Maine, have made this policy permanent, while others, including Massachusetts, Nevada and Vermont, adopted legislation to cover the cost of all student meals for the 2022-2023 school year.
One of few memorializing resolutions receiving bipartisan support in recent years, Resolution No. 493 was unanimously adopted by the Legislature at their October 2022 meeting. Legislator Gina Hansut (District 10 – Highland, Marlborough), resolution co-sponsor, said “As an educator, I saw firsthand the impact of the federal program on students and their families. With the state assuming the cost of school meals, it will shoulder a burden our school districts would not be able to provide on their own. I thank Ulster County’s representatives in Albany for speaking to the needs of our students and schools.”
As stated in the resolution, child hunger is associated with increased risk of anemia, lower nutrient intake, deficiencies in cognitive development, aggression, anxiety, hospitalization, poorer general health, asthma, behavioral problems, depression, suicidal ideation and poor oral health, among many other factors.
“This commitment and early investment in our youth will garner life-changing and lifelong results. We have a real opportunity to provide a healthy foundation for future generations that will no doubt result in a reduction in healthcare costs to address disorders like diabetes and heart disease.” Sperry concluded.
In New York, the cost to the state is estimated at approximately .09% of the overall budget. The Governor is anticipated to release her proposal for the 2024 Fiscal Year in the coming weeks.