Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, pledged in his State of the State address Wednesday to end child hunger by expanding the state’s public school breakfast and lunch program.
“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,” Cuomo said. “This program is essential to the success of future New York leaders and this administration remains committed to removing barriers to healthy food options, while providing a supportive, effective learning environment for students across this great state.”
Cuomo has faced criticism in the past for his stated support of including test scores in teachers’ evaluations and the state’s use of Common Core State Standards, two issues he later back off from. And last year, in his state-of-the-state, he said he would work to make college free. This year, he avoided any ground-breaking itinitiatives that impact the state’s K-12 system.
Cuomo said he will propose legislation this year to increase the state’s investment in its “Farm to School” lunch program, which helps provide schools with meals produced by local farms, and he committed to providing more schools with a free breakfast program.
He pointed out that child hunger is associated with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism and an inability to focus.
More than 60 percent of the state’s students are eligible to receive a free or reduced-price breakfast, though only 34 percent of the state’s students actually do so.
A part of the problem, Cuomo said, is school officials ridiculing children who can’t afford lunch by shaming them in front of their peers, forcing them to wear a sticker or bracelet, or having their name called out over the loud speaker. Students are also given cold cheese sandwiches rather than hot lunches.
Cuomo said he will crack down on the so-called “lunch shaming” by proposing a law that prohibits any such act against students who can’t afford lunch and banning alternative lunches.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.