17,058 students in Oneida County and 4,210 students in the Herkimer County are eligible for free school meals. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing to make universal school meals programs permanent in the State's public school system.

Gillibrand has introduced the “Universal Schools Meal Program Act of 2021”. It’s part of the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization current being negotiated in the  Senate Agriculture Committee.

The legislation would permanently implement a Universal School Meals Program to provide free school meals for all students.

The U.S Department of Agriculture is currently providing free school meals through COVID-19 waivers through the 2021-2022 school year.

If the emergency waivers were allowed to expire, many families in need would be excluded from participation.

A family of four living on just over $34,000 would not be able to enroll in free or reduced-price school meals.

It's estimated that 1 in 4 children in New York State faced hunger in 2020.

“Many children in New York and across the country rely on school meals to keep from going hungry,” said Gillibrand“This important legislation will deliver essential resources for school meal programs to ensure no student is ever denied a school meal, help families who are struggling to make ends meet, support schools, cut red tape, and bolster food producers across New York State. With USDA currently providing universal school meals through the 2021-2022 school year, now is the time to take bold action and make universal school meals a permanent reality.”

According to “Feeding America” 22-million kids rely on the National School Lunch Program for free or reduced-price meals.

Gillibrand is also a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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