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Push for free school meals continues despite no mention in proposed budget


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There is a lot included in Governor Hochul's proposed budget, but some lawmakers and advocates are concerned by something that was left out: funding for free school meals for all students.

There's disappointment over it not being included by the Governor, but there's also now determination to make sure when that budget due date of April 1st rolls around, there's funding to make sure hungry kids have the food they need to grow and learn at school.

We reported last month on the support for this from a coalition including lawmakers, educators and students. They say it's simple: hungry kids can't learn.

Last June, federal waivers providing free school meals expired. More than 700,000 kids were impacted statewide.

We're getting reaction to it not being in the proposal, especially since supporters say it would only amount to 0.1% of the total budget.

Jessica Pino-Goodspeed is with Hunger Solutions New York, and says their work is far from done:

There are bills that are happening, but really this needs To happen through the budget process because there's an allocation and funding tied to this program... There are reserves that the state, that the Governor has set aside. There's $8.7 Billion in surplus," said Pino-Goodspeed.

Rochster Democratic Assemblywoman Sarah Clark says there's bipartisan support for this in the legislature:

I do hope that we will include it in the Assembly response budget and that the Senate also has a lot of support to do it in theirs... If our children are hungry, they're not learning and it's adding to some of these issues we're seeing around mental health and social-emotional health as well." Asm. Clark tells CBS 6.

There's more reaction from lawmakers and advocates.

CBS 6 was sent the following state from NYS Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-Saugerties): "I'm happy to see a strong commitment to funding our schools in the Governor's Executive Budget, which continues our multi-year plans to fully fund Foundation Aid and phase-in both universal child-care and pre-K. The Governor's proposal on charter schools; however, is concerning as is the omission of our proposal to fund free, healthy school meals for all New York students, which we know will support their well-being while keeping more money in families' pockets. I look forward to working with my colleagues to deliver a budget that works for children and families across New York State."

A statement from The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) reads in part that "no student should go through the day hungry or anxious about accessing their next meal."

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Crisis in the Classroom is a weekly segment in which CBS 6 investigates issues faced by educators, students, and families. Send any tips to our team by emailing or by calling (518) 288-6034.

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