ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As part of New York’s conceptual state budget, Governor Kathy Hochul has set aside $134 million toward free school lunches.

However, some advocacy groups feel it’s not enough and are urging the state to develop a universal policy to feed students without charge, regardless of family income or other circumstances.

Groups across New York State are calling on the governor to increase proposed aid for free school meals.

Hunger Solutions New York is among them. The group is an anti-hunger organization, which promotes nutrition assistance programs statewide.

“$134 million was allocated in the state budget to expand access to healthy school meals for all children. While this is a major commitment of funds, it is a first step, but it does not cover all students,” said Jessica Pino-Goodspeed, manager of school meal policy with Hunger Solutions New York.

Pino-Goodspeed says the group is calling for a fully funded universal meal program statewide, as seen during the height of the pandemic.

The policy has already been adopted in several other states that have passed legislation to cover meals for children, regardless of family income.

“Not fully funding statewide universal meals still leaves far too many children and families behind. Currently in the system, families making over $51,000 per year, for a family of four, is over income-eligible for free school meals,” said Pino-Goodspeed.

According to the governor’s office, roughly 75 percent of students in New York received free school meals prior to the 2024 enacted budget.

Last Thursday, Gov. Hochul said the $134 million would serve low-income populations. However, advocacy groups say it goes beyond that.

“Anything short of full funding for universal school meals just perpetuates stigma in the program. Unfortunately, this is really the patchwork system we’re faced with for as long as we don’t have universal school meals,” said Pino-Goodspeed.

Hunger Solutions New York says it plans to continue the fight toward a universal policy. While the budget remains conceptual at this time, changes to the state’s school lunch policy can still be made.