The deadline to apply for free school lunches is Monday, when a price hike is also going into effect. NY1's Magee Hickey filed the following report.
Starting on Monday, remember to put an extra quarter in your child's backpack if you pay for your child's school lunch. For the first time in a decade, the cost of a New York City public school lunch is going up by 25 cents.
But at the same time, the number of families who qualify for free lunches is going up as well.
"This new policy is a mixed bag. It's good for people at the edge of poverty but for lower middle class families making over $36,000 a year who are struggling. This is a new tax in their lunch. It is the very dumbest way to balance the budget by making lower middle class
families pay more for their kids lunch," said New York City Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg.
Fewer than 25 percent of all students will have to pay for the increase, but that quarter a day hike adds up to an additional $45 a year per child for each family.
The city Department of Education blames the hike on the rising cost of food and labor. Families have until Monday to apply for the free lunch program at nyc.applyforlunch.com.
A free lunch is available for those who make less than $36,000 for a family of three, or more for larger families.
"Many families won't remember and they will be shocked to know that they're struggling, they're lower middle class, they can barely make the bills now and they're gonna face a tax increase on their kids' school lunches," Berg said.
Both the NYC Coalition Against Hunger and community food advocates are hoping the next mayor will adopt free school meals for public school students systemwide.