New York – They may be wearing backpacks filled with new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils but when the more than one million students in the New York City public school system sit down at their desks tomorrow there is one item they won’t need to bring with them: lunch.
The New York City Department of Education announced today that as of September 7th, all students in every public school in the five boroughs will be eligible for free lunches.
A banner on the School Food NYC website announcing the program bears the words “Nutrition is Priceless. Lunch for All Students. No Charge.”
Approximately 75 percent of students in the New York City public school system were already eligible for free or subsidized lunches according to federal guidelines, reported CBS News (http://cbsloc.al/2gML1M7). But some students who qualified for free meals were still missing lunch because their parents had neglected to fill out the necessary paperwork.
Parents will still have to fill out the school lunch forms under the new program which was hailed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as a recipe for academic success.
“Free school lunch will not only ensure that every kid in New York City has the fuel they need to succeed but also further our goal of providing an excellent and equitable education for all students,” said de Blasio.
The announcement comes one day after a demonstration on the steps of City Hall calling on the Department of Education to offer kosher, halal and vegetarian lunches to any student who requests them for religious reasons.
Past attempts to introduce similar meals in city schools where more than 25 percent of students required a religious dietary accommodation have floundered, but a new bill introduced by Assemblyman David Weprin in April would require the city to provide the special meals to any students who requested them.
Weprin noted that pre-packaged kosher and halal meals are easy to procure and are already being served on airlines and in correctional facilities, making them an obvious choice in city schools which serve an extremely ethnically diverse student body.
“The students of our state should not have to choose between a nutritious meal and their religion,” said Weprin.