SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Breakfast is often called the “most important meal of the day” and lunch helps us power through the day. However, the unfortunate reality is that some students don’t have access to healthy foods.

That’s why some lawmakers are meeting in Albany Monday morning to help fill the gap for students and families across New York. One of those elected leaders is Democratic Senator John Mannion.

“Our office has heard overwhelming support for this. It is a priority.”

SENATOR JOHN MANNION, (D) 50TH STATE SENATE DISTRICT

As someone who was a teacher for 28 years, Senator Mannion tells NewsChannel 9 he is in full support of the state funding free school meals for all students.

“There are several issues here,” Senator Mannion explained. “One is the poverty issue. Two is the continuity. Three is that teachers are spending out of their own pocket, and four, there is a level of shaming that occurs when a student has to go up and provide a card, punch in a code, or they’ve forgotten that.”

Elected leaders and advocates are passionate about providing the service, not only because they think it’s the right thing to do, but because kids from all over New York got a taste of getting free breakfast and lunch everyday, thanks to federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, those waivers have since expired. As a result, more than 726,000 students in New York lost access to free meals at school, according to the Healthy School Meals for All Coalition.

It is a priority. We have an increasing number of kids and families that are in poverty, and what I saw as a teacher is not having a nutritional diet and not having access to food, is something that impacts their education. So, this is something where New York State can do something and there’s certainly many people advocating for it.

SENATOR JOHN MANNION, (D) 50TH STATE SENATE DISTRICT

NewsChannel 9 reached out to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office for comment. We were provided with the following statement:

Governor Hochul worked with the legislature on a budget that provides an unprecedented $31.5 billion in statewide funding for the current school year and a supplemental earned income tax credit to help families with rising costs. She will release details of the fiscal year 2024 Budget this year.

STATEMENT: GOVERNOR HOCHUL PRESS OFFICE

We also reached out to other Central New York lawmakers including Senator Rachel May, Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, Assemblyman Al Stirpe and Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter. NewsChannel 9 did not receive a response.

DETAILS OF MONDAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE IN ALBANY

Where: The Million Dollar Staircase, New York State Capitol Building

Who: The event will include remarks by

  • Senator Michelle Hinchey
  • Senator Liz Krueger
  • Assemblymember Jessica Gonzáles-Rojas
  • Assemblymember Sarah Clark
  • Andres Vives, Executive Director, Hunger Solutions New York
  • Liz Accles, Executive Director, Community Food Advocates
  • Andrew Pallotta, President, New York State United Teachers
  • Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director, New York State PTA
  • Patrick Kenneally, School Lunch Director, Capital Region BOCES Shared Foodservice Management and New York School Nutrition Association
  • David Helmer, Lansing Central School District Student

Healthy School Meals for All is a group of more than 250 education and anti-hunger advocates. Learn more about the coalition here.