New York City Puts an End to School-Lunch Shaming

The city rolled out universal free lunch on the first day of class.

In some places, there really is such thing as a free lunch. As of Wednesday, September 6, New York City’s first day of school, all 1.1 million students are eligible for a hot lunch under the program Free School Lunch for All.

Mayor Bill de Blasio first began advocating for universal free lunch in New York City in 2014, when he launched a pilot program in middle schools. Although other school districts, Boston and Detroit among them, already offer free lunch to every student, New York City’s will be the largest program of its kind.  According to education news website Chalkbeat.org, more than two thirds of the city’s students were eligible to receive a free lunch, though an estimated 250,000 didn’t participate in the program due to a stigma associated with it or complicated paperwork. 

For more on how “school-lunch shaming” can harm kids—and what politicians are doing about it—listen to this recent episode of our food politics podcast, Bite. The segment begins at about 23:00.