Today we celebrate a huge victory for health, children, education, and equity. The 2017-18 New York City budget vastly expands and funds universal school lunch–that is, free lunch for nearly all of the City’s 1.1 million school children. The new program will ensure that children have the food they need to be healthy and learn well, regardless of their family income and without the stigma of free or reduced-price lunch. Additional funding will support marketing and promotion of the program to students and parents and improve the nutritional quality of school food. Food had been the one arena in public schools that segregated children by family income. Yesterday, that changed. We applaud the City Council and the Mayor for their leadership.
The New York State Health Foundation is especially proud to have supported educational and advocacy efforts to make this happen. Community Food Advocates, an NYSHealth grantee, has been a tireless leader in this area. Their bold and unwavering efforts have paid off. We congratulate them and their wide coalition of supporters and partners including parents, students, teachers, principals, faith leaders, anti-hunger groups, children’s and education advocates, organized labor, pediatricians, and many of New York’s elected officials. Global Strategy Group, another NYSHealth grantee, conceived and executed a brilliant and winning campaign.
The New York State Health Foundation leaned in hard and acted as a changemaker, more than a grantmaker, to contribute to this policy change. We wrote about it, spoke about it, convened public meetings, commissioned public opinion research, and supported a range of advocacy efforts including a direct mail campaign, television advertising, digital and social media, and public rallies.
By enacting this sweeping policy change, New York City has affirmed its commitment to the health and wellbeing of its residents, especially the most vulnerable. It’s a proud day for New York.