New York City Launches Free Lunch Program for All Students

Students fill their lunch trays at J.F.K Elementary School
Students fill their lunch trays at J.F.K Elementary School in Kingston, N.Y., where all meals are now free under the federal Community Eligibility Provision, Jan. 25, 2017. Mary Esch/AP Photo

The New York City public school system announced Wednesday that it will offer free lunch to every student this school year.

The announcement came after widespread criticism of school districts nationwide for so-called lunch shaming when children don’t have money to pay for food.

Shaming tactics ranged from taking hot lunches from the hands of children and throwing the food in the trash to stamping “Need Lunch Money” on their hands to notify parents they need to pay up.

With this policy change, New York City’s district ensures that each of its 1.1 million students has access at least two hot meals — breakfast was already free for students — every school day. New York City joins Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Dallas in offering free meals to students, The New York Times reported.

Although each child will have access to free lunch, parents in New York City are still encouraged to fill out income forms so the schools can qualify for federal funding to help pay for the program.

This school year, the Department of Agriculture, which oversees school lunch programs, required all schools to create written policies for students who can’t pay for their lunches. Although the USDA did not require programs like New York City’s, it did suggest that schools work with parents directly rather than involve the students when they have overdue balances on their lunch accounts.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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