There’s a growing push on Staten Island to offer free lunch in every public school. NY1’s Lisa Voyticki explains why some say it’s so important.
Miguel Rodriguez is a high school track coach on Staten Island, and says he believes some students are lacking energy because they aren’t eating lunch.
“One of the first things I ask them is 'what did you eat?'" said Rodriguez. He says they respond with "'I didn’t get anything coach.'”
Rodriguez is also the president of the Staten Island Federation of PTA's. He says students tell him they’re either embarrassed to eat for free, or they don't want to rack up their parents' lunch bill.
“One parent thought she couldn’t pick up her certificate of promotion for her child in middle school because she had a balance and you shouldn't be worrying about that," said Rodriguez.
According to a new report from the Citizens Committee For Children, or CCC, about one-tenth of city students, or roughly 110,000, are from low-income families, and yet they don’t qualify for the free lunch program.
Currently, all middle schools serve free lunch, but only select elementary and high schools do.
A spokesperson with the Department of Education says a little more than half of the roughly 65,000 students on Staten Island get free lunch.
The problem is especially bad in South Beach, according to the CCC, where only 12 percent of students get free lunch.
“If you're a family and you have three children and you're making between $40,000 and $60,000 that means that for you to pay for your children to have lunch everyday, it creates a burden," said Michael Mulgrew, the President of the United Federation of Teachers.
If universal free lunch were offered, supporters say that parents would save $35 a month for one student, and $70 a month if they have two students.
“A child's learning is directly tied to whether they have access to food and this is a big deal," said Mulgrew.
Last month, all five borough presidents, including James Oddo, wrote a letter to the Mayor, asking him to include free lunch at all public schools in next year’s budget.
A spokesperson with the mayor’s office tells NY1 the possibility of expanding free lunch to more schools is being reviewed.
Rodriguez says he hopes that happens so students thrive on the field and in the classroom.