As we get ready for the start of the 2024 Legislative Session, Assemblyman Matt Slater (R,C-Yorktown) is urging the governor to include full funding for universal school meals in her budget proposal and increase funding for SNAP benefits. Slater, a fierce advocate for food security, joined a bipartisan coalition calling on Gov. Hochul to fund Universal School meals.
In a collaborative effort in March, both the Assembly and Senate included $260 million in funding within their respective one-house budgets. Although this funding was only partially realized in the final budget, Slater persists in advocating for its full implementation.
“Hunger affects every community, and with New York state spending hundreds of billions of dollars, there’s no justification for not backing this initiative. Prioritizing our children is crucial, and ensuring each child has access to a nutritious meal paves the way for academic success,” stated Slater. “School superintendents unanimously consider this their top issue. Regardless of what side of the aisle one sits on, we can all agree that no child should suffer from hunger.”
For almost two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding guaranteed all students access to complimentary school meals. However, when the federal waivers supporting free school meals in New York expired, more than 726,000 students no longer had access to free meals at school, leading to a surge in families’ school meal debt. This led Slater to tackle hunger in the 94th District by initiating the Yorktown Food Insecurity Task Force as town supervisor.
“Our children are our biggest assets. Our kids are not unfunded mandates that are something we have to take care of. If they go to school hungry they are not going to learn properly. They are what’s going to lead this state and this country,” said Yorktown Supervisor Tom Diana.
“On behalf of all the children who are going to benefit from this program, I want to thank Assemblyman Slater. We are very proud of the education we provide but unless they can think and function because they are well fed we don’t get the full benefit,” said Michael Daly, Lakeland Board of Education Vice President.
“We want to take away the stigma. Children don’t want to be singled out, they want to be like their friends and neighbors so providing breakfast and lunch to every child is a really important issue. I am in full support of this program and Assemblyman Slater,” said Cindy Smith, St. Mary’s Food Pantry Director.
“We provide many food pantries to schools and families but what we found is children who are eligible for it won’t come forward because of the stigma. We are fighting a long standing problem and universal free meals will help solve it for all children,” said Sara Gunn, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.
Slater, continuing his fight in the state Assembly, has authored a letter to Gov. Hochul
expressing his support and advocacy for the inclusion of a universal free school meal program in her Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget Proposal. More than a dozen Republican lawmakers signed onto Slater's letter.
Click here to view the letter sent to Gov. Hochul