No one wants it pointed out that they can’t afford something. And that certainly applies to kids. Currently, however, New York City students have to stand in a specific line in order to receive a free lunch — opening themselves up to shame and ridicule because of their economic status. Which is why celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray are advocating for free lunch for all students.
Ray, along with “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio and a number of other famed foodies are urging New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to make room for a universal free lunch in this year’s city budget. Ray believes by lifting the cost of lunch, more underserved students will have access to healthy food.
“You’re taking away that stigma of the poor and making it a level playing field for everybody, and that’s supposed to be the promise of the de Blasio administration,” Ray told the Daily News.
Public Advocate Letitia James first proposed the idea in March, but earlier this week the City Council made the program a priority in its budget proposal.
The City Council is asking for an additional $24 million, but de Blasio is concerned it could affect how much federal education funding the city receives. Funding is based on the percentage of children who receive free lunch, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.
An estimated 75 percent of New York City’s 1.1 million students qualify for free lunch, but Ray and others contend children of undocumented immigrants are missing out on because of the federal paperwork required to be filed. More than 300 New York City schools already receive free lunch as a part of a 2012 federal pilot program; advocates, however, say that it’s not enough.
Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen, Alison Cayne of Haven’s Kitchen in Chelsea and Johnathan Adler of Franny’s in Brooklyn are also throwing their support behind the cause.
“The only way to approach it is improve the quality and access to healthy food in our public schools,” Ray wrote in a Daily News editorial, “and to make lunch free for all of our kids.”