School Lunch Now Free for All NYC Public School Students


Source: Getty Images. New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña (Left) and Mayor de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray (Right) eat lunch with students at Journey Prep School in the Bronx where many students depend on free lunch.

School lunch is now free for all New York City public school students. The news was announced by NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Wednesday, September 6th, one day before the official start of the 2017-2018 school year. Fariña calls the new program “Free School Lunch for All”.

The long-awaited decision comes after a history of free lunch shaming occurring in schools not only throughout the city, but also across the country. The stigma associated with receiving free lunch has been damaging to many students and this new program aims to end this. Many students who received free lunch in the past have reported being teased by their peers, and feeling humiliated to receive the free meal.


The city’s decision to make the switch follows many other major U.S. cities. New York City has the largest public school system in the United States, with approximately 1.1 million students enrolled. Although 75% of students qualified for free lunch last year based on family income, the decision will close the remaining gap and provide a more equitable lunch program. In prior years many families have been known not to complete the necessary paperwork to have their child become eligible for free lunch, even though they qualified. There were many reasons for this including privacy concerns, language barriers, and complicated paperwork. The City’s decision will clear these obstacles and provide 200,000 more students with daily lunches.


Surprisingly, the new “Free School Lunch for All” program is not expected to cost the city any more money, according to city officials. This is because the New York State government has now found a better method to more accurately ascertain which families are eligible for or receiving certain federal benefits. Previously some student’s families who were receiving or eligible to receive federal benefits were under the radar of the city; the new system allows the New York State government to track this data. This information then allows the city to meet the requirements for a federal program that will completely subsidize lunch for all students in New York City public schools.


A few Berkeley Carroll students have a unique connection to this topic. During Spring Intensives last March, the Hunger and Homelessness students learned a great deal about this pressing issue, and some wrote letters to their local NYC representatives advocating for free lunch for all students. The Blotter spoke with Hunger and Homelessness student Ayden Cherry (‘20) who expressed his strong support of this new initiative: “During the spring Intensive I witnessed so many hungry New Yorkers in need. The news is a big jump forward in reducing the amount of hungry people in our city. It makes me optimistic not only for change in our city but for change in our entire country.” This victory is truly a sign of progress for our city as we work towards a more just and inclusive culture.