ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — State lawmakers are now calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to allow funding for free breakfast and lunch for students in grades K-12 in the New York State budget.

“So many students across New York and across the U.S. are food insecure,” explained Julie Raway of the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “One in five in New York State, and it’s really important that they have access to school meals—a healthy, nutrient-rich meal at school every day.”

In an effort to help students in grades K-12 focus better in school, some state lawmakers would like the governor to include Healthy Meals for all New York Kids in the state budget. “The program will cost about $200 million,” stated Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas. “But we have to remember, it’s $200 million in a New York state budget of $216 billion. So, it’s really a drop in the bucket to ensure that our school children across the state have access to healthy nutritious meals.”

This would provide free, healthy breakfast and lunch for students regardless of where they live and their family’s income level. “Fifty percent of their nutrients they can access at school,” said Raway. “With school breakfast and lunch, there’s a lot of fruits and vegetables offered, whole grains, proteins in milk—which is a well-balanced meal for a student and gets them ready to learn throughout the day.”

At the start of the pandemic, a federal program similar to this was implemented in some schools across the state. However, it is set to expire in June. That’s why advocates are pushing for this to be put in place statewide soon.

“If the wavier expires and we take no action, over 2,000 schools would be impacted across the state, and 800,000 students,” said González-Rojas. “So many lives that will be impacted by lack of access to healthy breakfast and lunch in schools.”

The governor’s office did not respond to NEWS10’s request for comment.