Cuomo Proposes No Student Goes Hungry Program to Increase Student Access to Healthy School Meals

Still just a proposal, it would promote free and reduced-price school meals and ensure that schools are sourcing from New York farms.

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Part of the proposed law would ban lunch shaming across the state, whereby students are publically humiliated for reliance on free or reduced-price lunch. Photo credit: Flickr/United States Department of Agriculture.

Governor Cuomo’s No Student Goes Hungry Program, proposed during the 2018 State of the State at the beginning of this year, would expand student access to free and reduced-price school meals and ensure that schools are sourcing healthy food from New York farms.

“No child should ever go hungry, and by launching the No Student Goes Hungry Program, New York will ensure hundreds of thousands of students of all ages will receive access to free and reduced-price meals,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release.

The program is five-pronged. First, a proposed law would ban lunch shaming across the state, whereby students are publically humiliated for reliance on free or reduced-price lunch. Second, the state would provide $7 million in funding to help schools transition to providing ‘breakfast after the bell’. Oftentimes, free breakfast is served before buses arrive in the morning, making it inaccessible to most students.

Cuomo’s proposal would require schools with 70% or more students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch to serve breakfast in class or from nutritious vending machines. The third and fourth proposals address the sourcing of healthy foods from local farms by doubling funding for the Farm to School program and providing financial incentives for districts that purchase food from New York farms. Finally, the program would require food pantries on all SUNY and CUNY campuses to reduce food insecurity among college students.

The Governor’s proposal was met with enthusiasm from the statewide coalition New York Grown Foods for New York Kids—which includes over 70 public health, school, farm, anti-hunger and environmental organizations—for its emphasis on providing state incentives for the local purchase of healthy food for the 1.7 million kids who eat meals in K-12 schools across the state. “American Farmland Trust applauds Governor Cuomo’s leadership in ensuring more fresh or minimally processed foods grown in New York will be served in school cafeterias across the state, while expanding market opportunities for local farmers,” said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. “This proposal positions New York at the progressive front of a national movement to provide healthier food choices to our children, while keeping more dollars spent on food in our local economy.” 

The New Food Economy has done a thorough assessment of the proposal’s feasibility and as Marion Nestle reminds us, this is “just a proposal. The New York State legislature still has to pass it.”

It’s a hopeful proposition in any case and per Nestle’s recommendation, “New York residents: if you agree with the proposals, write your representatives and say so. Now.”

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Emily Farr

Emily’s work explores the role of fishers’ knowledge in fisheries management. She has milked goats in Vermont, worked on seaweed and shellfish aquaculture in Connecticut, and holds a Master’s from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.