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Universal School Meals

Help kids in need get free school meals without stigma or red tape

Even though they're eligible, many low-income children and teens don't participate in free school meals. Families can find the application process too difficult or confusing to complete. Some students skip the meals to avoid the stigma, not wanting to be seen as "poor." Moreover, the inefficient, error-prone, labor-intensive process of collecting and verifying applications places a significant burden on a school system strained for resources.

Universal School Meals would eliminate the application process, ensuring no young person has to forego meals because of red tape or stigma. Congress can make this possible by authorizing Universal School Meals during its upcoming vote on Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

Your action is needed NOW to make sure all children get the healthy school meals they need to succeed. Take a moment to make a big difference: e-mail your legislators (see links below) and urge them to make sure this year's Child Nutrition Reauthorization includes Universal School Meals. Please use the Food Bank's letter to our legislators as a template.

Targeted New York City legislators:
Senator Charles Schumer email
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand email
Congress Member Charles Rangel email
Congress Member Yvette Clarke email

Thank you for helping to give all New York City children an opportunity to succeed.



Dear [Legislator's Name]

As a New Yorker who recognizes that our city's 1.1 million public school students need to eat if they are to succeed, I urge you to champion provisions for Universal School Meals (USM) in this year's Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Every child should be entitled to a free meal at school without being labeled or classified by their family's poverty. While today's school meals are both healthier and tastier than those of years past, the stigma associated with being poor leads many students to forego school food entirely rather than be identified by how much they're charged at the end of the lunch line. What's more, the process of collecting and verifying applications from hundreds of thousands of students every year is often labor-intensive, inefficient and prone to inaccuracy.

This inefficient, application-based system should be replaced by a data-driven system that allows students to eat free of charge — and free of stigma. I am asking that you work with your colleagues in Congress to make sure that USM is a part of Child Nutrition Reauthorization. No child can perform at his or her best without adequate nutrition — food is as necessary for learning as textbooks and desks.

Ensuring USM is a part of this year's Child Nutrition Reauthorization will feed more children, support their long-term health and bring us closer to realizing President Obama's goal of ending child hunger by 2015. Our city's children need your leadership on this.


[Your Name]

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