Foodlink is one of hundreds of organizations around the state — a diverse coalition of anti-hunger,
education, food, nutrition, health, and equity-focused organizations and associations — to support a policy proposal that would establish and fund a statewide, permanent Healthy School Meals for All (HSMFA) program.
Foodlink staff members, including our recently hired Advocacy & Government Relations Specialist (a newly created position in late 2022), are visiting Albany Jan. 9 alongside other HSMFA advocates. There, we will speak with some of the elected officials that represent constiuents within our 10-county service area. More than 43,000 children living in this region live in food-insecure households, according to the most recent data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap report.
With this plan, more than 726,000 additional students statewide would have access to free school meals. More than 2,000 schools would benefit. Beyond the changes seen in school cafeterias from Monroe County across to Albany County and down to Suffolk County, the policy aims to:
- Level the playing field for kids and families by …
- Reducing hunger: Children already receiving free school meals are three times less likely to experince food insecurity.
- Eliminating stigma: When school meals are free for all, everyone is treated equally.
- Providing families with financial relief: Households could save an estimated $140 on groceries per child each month.
- Eliminating school meal debt: A significant burden on both families and school districts.
- Advance child health, education, and racial equity by …
- Providing reliable access to nutritious food: Did you know that school meals account for over half of a child’s daily calories? Across all income levels, kids receive their healthiest meals at school.
- Supporting academic achievement: Access to healthy food is proven to boost test scores, and improve attendance and classroom behavior.
- Reducing racial disparities in nutrition, health and food security: Black and Hispanic children are 4-5 times more likely than their White (non-Hispanic) counterparts to live in food-insecure households in Foodlink’s 10-county service area.
- Invest in every NYS school, community, and local economy by …
- Improving nutrition-related finances for schools: Districts will be better positioned to purchase high-quality foods.
- Streamlines administration: Less paperwork for parents and school administrators if school meals are accessible for all.
- Generating a ripple effect: Every dollar invested in school meals provides $2 in health, economic, equity, and environmental benefits.
Most children in high-poverty areas already receive free school meals through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). However, many students who do not live in these communities (often rural and suburban areas where poverty is prevalent but less concentrated) often fall through the cracks. A family of four making just $51,400 is over the income threshold for free school meals. Statewide, an estimated 470,000 children are ineligible for free school meals, but live in households earning less than a living wage.
Federal funds cover the majority of school meal costs in New York. To establish Healthy School Meals for All, the state will fund meal costs not covered by federal reimbursement, an anticipated annual investment of $187.3M to $201M.
SIGN THE PETITION: Tell Gov. Hochul and your elected leaders to support HSMFA!