On Wednesday, New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña announced that every single one of the city’s 1.1 million public school students will now be offered free lunch, beginning on Thursday, the first day of the school year. As far as back-to-school news goes—hell, as far as any news goes these days—this is pretty good.
The New York Times reports that, since the vast majority of public school students come from poor families, about 75 percent of them already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, still obviously a far cry from universal free lunch. This new program is expected to deliver lunches to an additional 200,000 students per year, and result in savings of $300 for the families of these kids.
Critics of the plan, which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed it as an element of his equity agenda, suggested that its main achievement would be giving free meals to relatively wealthy students. Supporters, meanwhile, have long argued that, though the city’s poorest students are supposed to get free lunch, kids often don’t want to admit that their families can’t afford to pay for lunch or are bullied because of it. Fariña said it was her hope that wealthier families whose kids will now be eligible to receive free lunch would donate the savings to their children’s schools via parent associations.
Many of the nation’s major cities including Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, and Boston already have free lunch programs in place for all their public school students, so it’s about time New York City—the largest school district in the country, a city whose mayor is an extremely tall optical illusion—got on board.