Public Advocate Letitia James Joined By Food Advocates To Announce Plan To Provide Free Lunch To All Public School Students Press Conference with the Lunch for Learning Campaign (New York, NY)— Today at 1:00PM, Public Advocate Letitia James will be joined by food advocates on the steps of City Hall to announce a proposal that would provide universal free lunch for all New York City public school students. Over 75% of city public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. That’s an estimated 780,000 students. However, because of the poverty stigma associated with school lunch— and understandable fears of undocumented families filling out the significant required paperwork to qualify— an estimated 250,000 income eligible city students do not participate in the school lunch program. Overall, 81% of elementary school students eat school lunch, but that number drops to 61% by middle school, and 38% in high school. This proposal would maximize federal incentives programs, while minimizing arduous paperwork to make free lunch accessible to all students. “Every child should be guaranteed access to healthy food during the school day. We know that when children are hungry, they are less likely to be attentive in class. I have spoken with the administration regarding the need to explore resources that can pay for universal free lunch. Most significantly, we need to unlink school food to family income to make this program accessible to children citywide,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. “All children deserve a healthy meal at lunch. We should be able to eliminate the burden on families without the risk of jeopardizing federal funding. We are grateful to Public Advocate James and our many food advocates for supporting us in this effort to persuade Washington to decouple lunch from Title one funding. Without decoupling, many of our schools would be unfairly penalized by the new federal program,” said Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Universal free school lunch is a big idea with a tiny cost. Providing free and healthy school meals to all NYC public school students is a cost-effective and efficient way to address student hunger, improve children's health, and boost educational outcomes. This is a win-win for New York's kids,” said New York State Senator Liz Krueger, 28th District.