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Coming TO NEW york city this Fall: 838,000 students with access to universal free school lunch!

by: Liz Accles

Executive Director, community food advocates

Friends and Partners,


Big news!: We've made a great leap forward towards free school lunch for all in NYC!  We are thrilled to announce that the Fiscal Year 2018 City budget agreement includes expansion of universal free school lunch to most public school students across all neighborhoods and grade levels.


Our preliminary analysis shows that an additional 475,000 students in 890 schools will benefit from equal and universal access to free school lunch in NYC.  This brings the total to 828,000 students (84% of the student population) in 90% of all k-12 schools!

This is a momentous step forwards towards addressing the stigma and shame in our cafeterias and mitigating the affordability crisis for families struggling to make ends meet and provide their children with nutritious meals.


Before we plan our next phase of work and implementation, we want to pause and celebrate this truly amazing accomplishment. The Lunch 4 Learning campaign kicked off four years ago, and each year our incredible base of partners has grown.


In our first year we secured universal free school lunch for free standing middle schools.  This was an important first step, but each year we ramped up the fight.


This year, with a game-changing commitment from New York State Health Foundation, we were able to work with the strategic communications firm, Global Strategy Group, who, together with the New York City Council, the Public Advocate, and all five borough presidentsour union partners,

DC 37, UFT, and CSA; the Lunch 4 Learning Parent Caucus and student leaders; pediatricians; and anti-hunger and community-based organizations, really helped lift our work up in ways that the de Blasio administration could no longer ignore. We truly could not have spearheaded and sustained the Lunch 4 Learning campaign over the years without the dedication and support of so many people. 


This has been a labor of love for all of us here at Community Food Advocates, and we are very excited to begin work to ensure effective implementation in each school and make sure New York is a truly universal free school lunch city with no student left out. 


      Many Thanks,




Liz Accles

Executive Director

Community Food Advocates



Read Bloomberg's coverage of the NYC budget: 

"NYC Budget Deal Has Millions 

for Youth Jobs, Free School Lunches" and

view NBC 4 New York's ongoing coverage 

of the Lunch 4 Learning campaign


For a full list of press coverage from NY1, 

the New York Daily News, HuffPost, News 

12 Brooklyn (and many others!) since the 

new year, view our press page here



Students meet with Council Member

Margaret Chin after providing testimony

before City Council Finance Committee

High school student leaders from

Community Food Advocates' Youth Justice

League testified before City Council on May

25th, shortly before the budget was released.

The students rounded out a chorus of

requests for expansion of universal.

Finance Committee Chairwoman,

Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and others,

praised the students for their advocacy and

eloquent, deeply personal testimony.



8,000+ Postcards Delivered to the Mayor & November 15th Rally   






Parents and Community Members Speak Out About Universal






Spring 2017: Donald Nesbit, Executive Vice President of Local 372, DC 37 (pictured), parents, community and union members speak out about universal in targeted ads throughout NYC.

May 15th Rally






Center: Ksenia Novikova, student at New Utrecht High School and Youth Justice League member speaks; Left: Councilman Peter Koo, Brooklyn Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna; Councilman Vincent Gentile; Right: Councilman Ben Kallos; Councilman Richie Torres; Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson 



Youth group Teenergetic and other youth advocates at the May 15th rally


Students and Celebrities Weigh In










                     Youth make posters for the May 15th rally                                                                Rachael Ray releases ad in support of the L4L campaign






Our Funders:

Auchincloss Foundation                                                Mertz Gilmore Foundation

BTMU / MUFG                                                                 New York Foundation

Ford Foundation                                                             New York Community Trust

Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing             New York State Health Foundation

Levitt Foundation                                                           North Star Fund

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger                       Share our Strength                              

                                                                                           Sirus Foundation


And CCCNY for their analysis of universal's impact on moderately low-income families in NYC




Students meet with Council Member Margaret Chin after providing testimony before City Council Finance Committee

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