Lunch 4 Learning is a campaign for universal free school lunches in New York City, initiated and led by Community Food Advocates. On March 11, 2014 Public Advocate Letitia James held a Press Conference at City Hall with Lunch 4 Learning staff and supporters, in which she announced her support for universal free school meals. Public Advocate James urged Mayor DeBlasio to implement universal free meals immediately to remove the distinction between paying and free and reduced price customers, and thus the stigma that deters many youngsters from participating, especially as they reach the socially sensitive middle and high school years. She pointed out that most NYC public school students who do not qualify for Free or Reduced Price meals are not rich; their families, too, are struggling to make ends meet. Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Poughkeepsie, and Hempstead have all used a new federal option to provide free meals to all their students.
Participation in the school lunch program is low—but not for a lack of need. —>
75% of NYC students are eligible for free or reduced price school lunches, which means that their annual family income is less than $36,000 for family of three, but only 530,000 of these actually participate.
Changing the current system – which links school food with family income – gets rid of the income stigma, that greatly impacts participation, especially as children get older. —>
Students eating school lunch: 81% in elementary, 61% in middle school, and 38% in high school. 250,000 of the students who are eligible for free meals do not participate.
Universal School Meals Works —>
NYC schools that provide free school lunch to all students through a federal incentive program called “Provision 2” had significant increases in the number of students eating, especially in middle and high schools. This proves true in other places that have universal free school lunch. Over time, at least an additional 120,000 children will eat school lunch each day.
A 20% increase in participation would bring in an additional $59 million in federal and state funds and require an additional investment of $20 million in NYC funds, or $20/student per year. —>
This $20 million represents .0025% of the City’s current $8 billion investment in the NYC Department of Education budget.
Universal free school lunch is WIN-WIN-WIN! It benefits students and families, schools, and the local economy. —>
For every 10% increase in participation, the equivalent of 500 SchoolFood© jobs are created and local economic activity is increased.
Data provided by Lunch 4 Learning: Key Points