Community Activists and DC 37 Push for Universal School Lunch

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Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I calls for $20 million to be added to next year’s budget in order to fund universal fee lunch in the city’s public schools. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera.

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

“I think we’re missing an opportunity to use available federal funding to make school lunches free,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said when he was on the campaign trail in 2013.

As mayor, he’s made universal pre-kindergarten available and is pushing for free day care for 3-year-olds. But he has not yet delivered on a campaign pledge to provide universal free lunch.

To remind him of his campaign promise, members of DC 37, the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, as well as public school parents, students and other community residents took to the steps of City Hall on Monday. They urged him to include $20 million in the city’s budget for free school lunches for all New York City public school students.

Board of Education Employees Local 372 president Shaun D. Francois I recalled helping needy kids when he worked in school kitchens. “I knew students were hungry and I fed them and I would do it again today,” he said.

Local 372 has called for universal free lunch for several years.

While some schools do offer free lunch, there are still 1,200 city schools that do not, said Council member Daniel Garodnick. There are some 250,000 students who are eligible for free lunch but don’t participate – in large part because they’re embarrassed to be identified as low-income students who need the help.

Activists and elected officials took to social media to make their case.

“We know that kids who are well fed perform better in schools. It’s long past time we prioritize our kids and provide #UniversalLunch in NYC,” tweeted Public Advocate Letitia James, who also spoke at the City Hall event.

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