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New York, NY – Members of the Progressive Caucus joined Lunch 4 Learning advocates, along with DC37, UFT, CSA, and the Black Latino Asian Caucus, to rally on the City Hall steps today to urge Mayor Bill De Blasio to honor his campaign promise to provide Universal Free School Lunch to all 1.1 million New York City public school students. Universal free and healthy school lunch for all 1.1 million NYC public school students is the most effective way to encourage greater participation by eliminating the poverty stigma associated with the program.

“No student should be stigmatized for eating free lunch,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “The federal and state reimbursements available mean this program could have a huge impact with a relatively low cost to the City. It’s time that we make sure that no students are going hungry at school.”

“Providing free lunch to all students while help erase stigmas in the classroom and ensure that all students have the proper nutrition to succeed in New York City schools,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “When a young mind is hungry, they are more prone to distractions and fatigue, so funding well-balanced meals for every child is a no-brainer that we as a City should begin implementing as soon as possible.”

“Providing Universal Free School Lunch to all New York City public school students is a no-brainer. By making a healthy lunch accessible to all, the children who need it most will feel less stigma in taking part and every school child will return to class well-nourished and ready to learn,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Vice-Chair of Budget for the Progressive Caucus.

“No child should have to worry like I did about having enough money to pay for lunch or being picked on because they get a free or reduced meal,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Vice-Chair of Policy for the Progressive Caucus. “Especially in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, we cannot allow any child to go hungry in our public schools. Universal free lunch is possible if we decided to do the right thing and fund it.”

“It is a fact that children learn better when they do not have to operate on an empty stomach,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “Unfortunately, for too many students from low-income families that is a reality. Universal free school lunch can help our students do better in school and close the Inequality gap.”

“No child should go hungry in school, regardless of their family’s ability to pay for school lunch,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. “Lunch time should be an opportunity to teach our kids how to make healthy food choices and not a cause for humiliation. New York City invests the largest part of its budget on education; investing in supportive services like universal free school lunch can help ensure that our children reap the full benefits. I look forward to working with the Administration to expand this baselining to include all grades.”

“We need to eliminate hunger everywhere in our city, but particular attention must be put on the challenges our students face dealing with poverty,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “We cannot expect our children to reach their full potential in school when faced with hunger and the stigma of poverty. Our schools are places where we strive to eliminate inequalities. That’s why universal free school lunch is vital to the continued progress of our city.”

“No student should be hungry at school. Universal free school lunch is one of the most effective ways New York can invest in our children’s future,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “The cost of a universal free school lunch program is modest and its positive impacts are well documented. I thank Lunch 4 Learning NYC for their advocacy and I look forward to our City joining others across the nation that have already recognized student nutrition is a key to academic success.”

“Every child deserves to learn in an environment free of both hunger and the stigma that is all too familiar for working families who are struggling to get by,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “A fully funded universal free lunch program would achieve these goals and ensure that all students of all backgrounds and income levels have the support they need to excel in the classroom. I thank the Lunch 4 Learning coalition for drawing attention to this important issue, and for bringing people together in the fight to end hunger in our schools.”

“All the research shows a hungry student cannot perform to the best of his or her ability. Nutrition is important to cognitive development, academic achievement and mental health,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “In a city like ours where thousands of families struggle to make ends meet, providing free school lunch to all New York City public school students is one thing we can do to help lessen the load.”

“Knowing that a healthy lunch is key to successful learning, New York City has provided nutritious meals to qualifying students for generations,” said Council Member Debi Rose. “Extending these meals to include all children will ensure that each and every student has this opportunity. I call on the administration to take this step so that all children can receive a healthy meal without any barriers or stigmas attached.”

Supporters of Universal Free School Lunch include union leaders NYC Council Progressive Caucus; NYC Council Black, Latino, Asian Caucus; and additional Council Members from throughout the five boroughs; NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; NYC Council Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland; NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm Henry Garrido, Michael Mulgrew, and Ernest Logan and over 300,000 members from DC 37, the UFT and CSA; Public Advocate Letitia James; ALL 5 Borough Presidents. Additionally, the New York City Council has included Universal Free School Lunch in its 2018 budget priorities.

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