New York's recently passed state budget includes $134 million for funding free school meals for students. The state will reimburse schools participating in the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
In the North Syracuse Central School District, school lunch for pre-K through fourth grade is $3.25 per meal or $16.25 for an entire week of lunch. For fifth grade through high school that cost is $3.50 per lunch or $17.50 for the entire week of lunch. A week's worth of breakfast is $11.25 at $2.25 a meal.
"I feel very strongly that school meals for all students may be the most consequential achievement in this year's budget," Mannion said.
Schools currently qualify for the CEP program if 40% of their students qualify for free meals. The federal government said it would drop this threshold to 25%.
Mannion said the state funding combined with federal government assistance means free school breakfast and lunch will be available to 81% of the state's student population.
"It helps kids learn," Mannion said. "It helps them succeed. It provides them with the stability that's necessary to be successful in school and it removes some of the stigma that is involved when we're talking about students in a school setting that are hungry and may not have the funds necessary to purchase breakfast or lunch on that day."