During their January 3 meeting the Tompkins County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution calling on Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature to sign legislation to make lunch free for K-12 students across the State.
A resolution introduced by Legislator Brown has put pressure on the State Legislature and Governor to sign legislation to address student hunger by guaranteeing universal access to free meals for students in grades K-12.
The resolution cites the success of the federal program implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic that gave schools nationwide a waiver to provide free lunch for all students. That program expired in June 2022 – meaning that caregivers must now apply and qualify for free or reduced student meals.
The states of Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, California, and Maine have adopted legislation to increase access to free meals for students.
In response to the passage of the resolution Tompkins County Communications Director, Dominick Recckio said, “the legislature is sending advocacy to the New York State Legislature and the Governor around a bill that would provide universal access to free meals for students in grades K through 12.”
He continued saying that Legislator Randy Brown “has been taking great attention and care to the concerns of young people in his district and free meals at school is a huge equity issue.”
The resolution also details the existing USDA Community Eligibility Provision, which allows any schools or districts with 40% or more children eligible for free meals to offer the meals and receive a reimbursement.
According to available Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) data for Tompkins County School Districts, TST BOCES, Newfield Central School District, Enfield Elementary School, Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, and Dryden Central School District are currently qualified for a CEP program, all other school districts in Tompkins County have between 30% and 40% of students that qualify for assistance.
If the state were to pass such legislation, over 2,000 schools and 800,000 students would be impacted in New York, with universal access to free meals.