Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, lunch will be offered free to all 1.1 million students in the New York City public school system. Sean Piccoli and Elizabeth Harris explain in The New York Times that 75 percent of students already qualified for free or reduced-price lunches and that “the new initiative will reach an additional 200,000 students and save their families about $300 per year.” School lunch in New York City costs $1.75.
Piccoli and Harris note that the move has been promoted for years by nutrition experts and that New York joins other cities such as Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and Dallas in offering free lunch to all its students.
The city had taken preliminary steps towards providing free lunch for all before unveiling the city-wide rollout. Alex Zimmerman explains in Chalkbeat that “The city had been moving incrementally toward free lunch, making it universal at standalone middle schools in 2014, which resulted in a 6 percent increase in those students eating school lunch.”
He states that an education department spokesman projected that “the new lunch policy would result in 29,000 additional students getting lunch each day — a 3.4 percent increase” but notes that there is debate about how many more lunches will be served, how best to publicize the program, and how to improve the quality of the food to ensure that as many students as possible participate in the program.
TheNew York Times editorial board explains that the program is not expected to cost the city more money since it has been created under the auspices of the Community Eligibility program, which reimburses students for meals based on the students’ poverty level.
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