Gov. Andrew Cuomo's latest 2018 State of the State proposal unveiled Thursday aims to end child hunger by ensuring students at schools across New York have access to food.
Cuomo launched the No Student Goes Hungry Program to expand the existing Farm to School initiative by doubling the state's investment to $1.5 million and implement "breakfast after the bell," which would require schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch to serve breakfast after the beginning of the school day.
The governor's office cited the success of breakfast after the bell in Newburgh, a city in Orange County. The program was implemented for the 2015-16 school year and breakfast participation increased by more than 100 percent.
The state will provide $7 million to implement breakfast after the bell in 1,400 New York schools.
Feeding America reported nearly 820,000 children in New York experienced food insecurity in 2015. Two-thirds of the children were likely eligible for federal nutrition aid, according to the study.
"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.
Another plank of Cuomo's child hunger agenda is banning "lunch shaming" in schools statewide. There have been reports of students being forced to wear a sticker or have their name announced to larger audience if they are unable to pay for school meals. Some children are denied meals if they can't pay.
Cuomo wants to prohibit the public humiliation of students who cannot pay for lunch. The measure would also prevent schools from serving alternative lunches if students can't afford meals. Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, students will be required to receive the same lunch as their peers.
The No Student Goes Hungry Program would also increase reimbursement for schools that use more locally grown products in meals. The current reimbursement rate is 5.9 cents per meal. The governor's plan would raise that level to 25 cents per meal for districts that buy at least 30 percent of their ingredients from New York farms.
Cuomo's initiative wouldn't just apply to young children. He is also seeking to address hunger on college campuses across the state.
His plan would require food pantries on all State University of New York and City University of New York campuses. New York would be the first state in the nation to require every public college and university to have a food pantry on campus, according to the governor's office.
Now, there are food pantries on nearly half of SUNY and CUNY campuses. Cuomo's plan to establish food pantries on all campuses would be supported with a $1 million investment.
Hunger is an issue affecting many college students. A report titled "Hunger on Campus" released by national organizations revealed 48 percent of students lacked access to food in the last 30 days. A majority of these students were unable to buy a textbook.
Cuomo's five-point plan will be part of his 2018 legislative agenda. The state Legislature must sign off on the proposal and the funding for the initiatives will be part of upcoming budget negotiations.
"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," he said.
The governor will deliver his annual State of the State address Jan. 3 in Albany.