Today we celebrate a victory for health, children, education, and equity. The 2023–24 New York State budget expands and funds free school meals so that more public school students across the State will have the food they need to be healthy and learn well, regardless of their family income and without stigma and shame.
Food has been the one arena in public schools that segregated children by family income. Now, that is changing. Providing free meals is a proven strategy to reduce food insecurity, improve mental and physical health, boost academic performance, and increase educational and economic equity.
We thank the Governor for her support. We applaud the Legislature—especially Senator Hinchey and Assemblymember Gonzalez-Rojas, who sponsored the issue in their houses—for its leadership.
The New York Health Foundation is especially proud to have supported educational and advocacy efforts to expand school meals. Hunger Solutions New York and Community Food Advocates, both NYHealth grantees, led an unwavering effort to advance this policy. We congratulate them and their coalition of supporters including parents, students, teachers, principals, faith leaders, anti-hunger groups, children’s and education advocates, organized labor, pediatricians, and many of New York’s elected officials. Global Strategy Group, another NYHealth grantee, conceived and executed another winning issue-oriented campaign.
The New York Health Foundation leaned in hard and acted as a changemaker, more than a grantmaker, to contribute to this policy change. We testified about it, wrote about it, and convened public meetings. This policy builds on the previous success of our grantees and the Foundation to establish universal free school lunch in New York City.
By enacting this policy change, New York State has affirmed its commitment to the health and wellbeing of its residents. It’s a proud day for New York.
David Sandman, Ph.D.
President and CEO
New York Health Foundation