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Taste detection and hunger state dynamically regulate the decision to initiate feeding. To study how context-appropriate feeding decisions are generated, we combined synaptic resolution circuit reconstruction with targeted genetic access to specific neurons to elucidate a gustatory sensorimotor circuit for feeding initiation in Drosophila melanogaster. This circuit connects gustatory sensory neurons to proboscis motor neurons through three intermediate layers. Most of the neurons in this pathway are necessary and sufficient for proboscis extension, a feeding initiation behavior, and respond selectively to sugar taste detection. Hunger signals act at select second-order neurons to increase feeding initiation in food-deprived animals. In contrast, a bitter taste pathway inhibits premotor neurons, illuminating a central mechanism that weighs sugar and bitter tastes to promote or inhibit feeding. Together, these studies reveal the neural circuit basis for the integration of external taste detection and internal nutritive state to flexibly execute a critical feeding decision.