Healthy Food, Healthy Lives

Project Title

New York State School Meals for All Campaign

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Healthy Food, Healthy Lives

Date Awarded

March 17, 2022




In Progress


Free school meals improve children’s physical health, mental wellbeing, and academic performance.

Students who eat school meals every day consume more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains, resulting in a decreased risk of diet-related disease and lower health care costs. When school meals are free to all students, shame and stigma associated with school lunch decreases and participation increases. NYHealth grantee Community Food Advocates (CFA) and other partners achieved universal school lunches in New York City, but 30% of all public school students elsewhere in the State do not have such access. During the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture extended free school meals to all students nationally, but that relief was only temporary, and many students in New York State will lose access to these meals when pandemic-related waivers expire at the end of this school year. Absent federal action, New York State still has the ability to make free school meals a reality, just as California and Maine have recently done. In 2022, NYHealth awarded Hunger Solutions New York (HSNY) a grant to work with CFA on implementing the New York State School Meals for All Campaign to achieve universal free school meals statewide.

Under this grant, HSNY will formalize the New York State School Meals for All Campaign Coalition, expanding its network of anti-hunger and child-focused organizations to advocate for policy change. It will actively engage members of CFA’s Lunch 4 Learning coalition, which successfully fought for universal free school lunch in New York City, as well as build a racial equity framework to engage additional allies. The coalition will explore policy options at both the federal and State levels. As part of a broader public education campaign, HSNY will collect and share stories about the impact of universal free school meals. It will also develop a toolkit to help schools effectively implement federal options to serve universal free meals.