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Senator calls for free school meals in state budget

Senator calls for free school meals in state budget

Slate Hill: A local lawmaker is urging the inclusion of free school meals in the final negotiated spending package, with just one month till the state budget deadline.

The proposal is being pushed for by state senator James Skoufis (D) of Cornwall, who claims it will enhance student discipline and academic achievement. Although many schools in the area now offer free breakfast and lunch programs, four school districts in his Senate district—Minisink Valley, Goshen, Warwick Valley, and Cornwall—remain ineligible for this assistance.

According to Skoufis, feeding our kids at school is an investment in our communities. For caregivers who struggle to get kids out the door or keep food on the table, having one less item to worry about at the beginning of the day can be a game changer.

The superintendent of the Minisink Valley School District in Slate Hill, Brian Monahan, stated that his district is using local monies to promote free breakfast and lunch, but he asked the state to implement the universal meals plan. Without assistance from the state, he doesn’t think they will be able to sustain the program locally.

Although our district is not currently eligible for full payment for free meals, Monahan noted that there was a clear demand for it among our pupils. Thankfully, we were able to meet that need this year thanks to our financial situation, and we made the decision to provide free breakfast and lunch to every kid. But in the future, we won’t be able to maintain this increased feeding program without governmental assistance.

By April 1st, the state budget is due. Reductions in school aid were suggested in Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposal, which was unveiled back in January. Skoufis and other local leaders have been fighting against these proposals.

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