Sunday, December 28, 2014

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The Call Blog: City Council, DOE Continue Dispute Over Free School Lunches

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While this fight between the Council and Mayor is rare, it's still a marked departure from the ones we got accustomed to between the previous Council and Mayor Bloomberg. The conversation has changed from closing firehouses and schools to giving schools and police precincts more resources. And I have a feeling even this disagreement will be somehow resolved.

The City Council and the de Blasio administration continue to spar over a proposal that would provide universal free lunch to all New York City public school students. Today, advocates of the measure, including Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, rallied outside City Hall in support of the $24 million program. They say the plan, which was not included in Mayor de Blasio’s $73.9 billion executive budget, will make a difference in the lives of students and their families, and also eliminate the stigma associated with getting a free meal.

Testifying at a City Council budget hearing however, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the Department of Education has concerns that adopting the plan would jeopardize federal funding. Fariña added that implementing the program would likely not happen this year, but officials are still working on it. Advocates blasted that response, saying the City can find a way to ensure federal funding is not impacted, as several school districts around the country have. The Council and Mayor de Blasio have until the end of June to come up with a final budget deal.

What’s your reaction to this rare ongoing disagreement between the de Blasio administration and the City Council? Do you want to see free school lunches included in the next budget? If not, how would you spend $24 million tax dollars? Is this a pressing issue in your neighborhood?

Reply with your thoughts using the link above.

I love the idea of ensuring that there are no hungry kids sitting in our schools. If they can ensure no loss of Federal Funds, then it is a wonderful idea. That said, de Blasio had pitched the idea of opening more 'community schools' with wraparound services in neighborhoods of need...I wonder if that was included in his budget? That almost seems more urgent.

Once again, it doesn't hurt to mention the GAZILLION unanticipated dollars the state is forcing the city to spend on rent and renovation of spaces for charter schools. That money could have fed a lot of needy children (or been put toward alleviating the overcrowding burdening our regular public schools). Such a shame.

Upper West Side

Free school lunches should be included in the next budget, it's the right thing to do because some kids come from big families and the parents can't afford to give each child money for a school lunch. Some kids are living in shelters and the school lunch is the only nutrional meal they're eating, kids need to eat three nutrional meals a day so their bodies can function. If i ever see a hungry child in my neighborhood and his parents don't have any money i would give the parent money so they can have a decent meal. I see so many people wasting food espically in Coney Island they buy a Nathans meal take a few bites and then dump it to me that's stupid its a waste of money and food.

Upper West Side

I am all for it, but would rather they focus on providing higher quality school lunches. For many families it is not a problem paying the $8.75/week they currently charge. In fact it costs more to pack a lunch. I think if the meals were of true quality; using tasty natural ingredients, then families opting out now, would instead opt in and would be happy to pay.

Jackson Heights

Why this is a struggle is beyond me because they should go to the different neighborhoods
and check out the garbage and they will see all the food thrown out. Either half eaten,
not eaten at all and then we have the yogurt containers not even opened that are thrown away.
It is filthy looking and wasteful to say the least and I have a clear view of what’s in the garbage
bags since they are clear.
This is not a reflection on how we feel about feeding children but they need to do a better job
with their research before they spend our money. The spending is usually an exuberant amount
of money and is just going through the roof

It’s our money not theirs to spend freely and now we are informed that this mayor is conducting
busness behind closed doors without the presence of the media.

When this mayor visits [Brooklyn] Pre-k venues why does he not insist that the children learn
English and they should also be trained and if not then it is what most of us suspect and that it is just
a glorified day care center.
Come on now = this administration needs to grip on things = we need to be informed.

Still no jobs, pot holes and dog dew! What’s up with that DeBlasio & Co.

Morris Park

The Socialists at work. Time to vote in City Council members who are for the people, not specific groups.

Park Hill

Schools should provide education, not lunches.

Lunches should be provided by parents either directly by packing a lunch for their children or by paying for lunches for their children. Notice that in both cases I said “by parents.. No one should be required to feed other people’ children

For that matter, no one should be forced or subjected to pockets being picked to educate someone else’s children.

Port Richmond

There is never never enough money to do the minimum things we need to improve our education!

Free school lunch only for children who qualify! If you ask, most children will tell you that they don't eat their lunch!!


It is very important that kids be able to eat breakfast and lunch each day. When I was a kid my family was very poor. My mom sent us to school all year round to balance her budget and make sure that we would learn as much as possible. We didn't have to go to summer school for academic reasons, but as a result of all of the extra time I spent doing math and science in school I attended Brooklyn Tech and got a scholarship to college. Would not have been possible for a kid on public aid at the time.


As for providing free lunch for all students, I'm all for it, but how about improving the quality of the food? I am a NYC public school teacher. I work in a district 75 school, and we have instructional breakfast and lunch. I see what the students are offered to eat. It is a poor excuse for nutritional food. On top of that, it is served on styrofoam trays, which are toxic. Put hot food on styrofoam, and you have a nice toxic soup.


It is near criminal that $250 million more is going to charters, including $35 million to pay rent for rich charter chains lie Success Academy.

As a direct results of the charter lobby and in particular patrons of Ms Moscowitz and Governor Cuomo, taxpayer money has been ergregiously diverted to what private businesses. Not kids.

Public schools are being set up to fail as a matter of policy, a policy driven by a corporate lobby. After 8 years of deep budget cuts, there is no money to hire enough teachers to keep class sizes down (the one thing proven to impact student outcomes), often, no money to pay for the basics of a well-rounded curriculum - art, music, early grade science, etc., no money to address crumbling facilities, etc. And instead piles of money for schools that do not educate the preponderance of NYC school kids - not ELL's, not special ed kids, not kids who are hard to have in a classroom. Not a million NYC school kids.

There is nothing wrong with a charter school, but primary education is a public good, and the presence of the charter lobby in our public schools system has meant the evisceration of our public school system in NYC.

Washington Heights

Put the 24 million dollars towards having gym more then once a week. They complain about obesity in kids and not being active enough. Their reasoning is very weak.. " stigma" is just another word for the left to make all feel sorry. Children get hungry ???? Those who need it are getting it .


What is the problem with funding universal lunches when we as taxpayers are giving so much funding to charter schools which are privately run and are suppose to be privately funded. Do children in charters pay for their lunch. Also, what stigma is attached to receiving free lunch. Most children don't know their fellow classmates parents pay. Please make it universal, we can afford it just make the lunches more attractive and tasty for especially the elementary children.


Why not examine how alternate city agencies responsible for health and food concerns rather then have the doe cover the charge. In comparison are agencies such as the Police Department paying for paying for the fire departments trucks? DOE is responsible for education, although children must eat at school, the health agencies should be paying accordingly.


If it's all about the stigma then why not give all the children a lunch card of the same color and have the accounting department deal with the monetary issues of who is eligible and who is ls not. The back end office should collect the funds.

It does not need to be public information who is getting a free lunch and who isn't. The children should learn and play in an intimidation free environment.


I live near Columbia, where our local Chipotle has college students lined up night after night. Let Chipotle "model" a school lunch line for the public schools and the kids will be eating it up as fast as the college students!

ALSO, District 3 on the Upper West Side had universal free lunch back into the '90's for the very reasons being floated today. We have widely disparate household incomes, yet we had free lunch for all, what's the big deal? It's so that there's NO deal, and that everyone eats! Kids can't learn on empty stomachs!

Morningside Heights

I'm against free for all lunch. Parents who can afford it should send a check to the school. Stigma problem solved. No one would know who paid, who did not

Upper East Side

we are a public school family from elementary to middle to high school.
also my kids would never eat school lunches - they were disgusting - they brought a bag lunch.

I also volunteered in the school during lunch time & as a "learning leader" for a reading group. The kids thought lunch was gross too. Trash was very full of the lunches that were too disgusting to eat.

folks (kids included) think "free" as not worth anything, so they can throw worthless stuff in the garbage.


Anyone that thinks feeding children free lunches in school. somehow speaks to the negligence of the parents, has no idea of what a community is..

and anyone that feels that it is strictly a place for learning,has no idea of what social reasoning is likewise...


Feed your children free universal lunch. Teachers got their raises, legislators don't cut back their salaries, free lunch. Why not...and for the lady that said people have seven children, then they need to use family planning programs to avoid this you don't have children you can't support. If it is a question if saving money it is time at the wasted management salaries.

East Harlem

Corporate cafeterias offer employees free lunch so why no improve school kids? How about free lunch summer program being very popular!


NYC should spend the money in revamping the food quality and keep it real nutritious. Stop the bad quality provide green markets at school. Then maybe there can be a universal free lunch program.

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