New York State School Boards Association

Cuomo targets 'lunch shaming'

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • January 22, 2018

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

In his 2018 State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an end to "lunch shaming" in public schools and offered a package of proposals to help ensure that students aren't trying to learn on an empty stomach.

Among the education-related proposals Cuomo outlined in a full text of his State of the State message was a plan he dubbed "No Student Goes Hungry."

To combat "lunch shaming," a term sometimes used to describe the serving of lesser lunches to students who are behind on payments for their meals, the governor proposed a ban on alternative lunches in public schools. He also called for a ban on practices that could humiliate a student because he or she could not afford lunch, such as an identifying sticker or bracelet.

An initiative called "Breakfast After the Bell" would ensure that students at schools where at least 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches could obtain breakfast after the start of the school day. A $7 million state investment would cover technical assistance and equipment, such as coolers and vending machines, to help expand breakfast availability in 1,400 schools where breakfast now is limited to an early period before classes start - and sometimes before buses arrive. Cuomo's written message highlighted a breakfast-after-the-bell program in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, where breakfast participation rates have doubled.

The governor also called for increased support of two programs that put locally produced food on students' plates. He would double state funding for the Farm to School program to $1.5 million, and he called for hiking the reimbursement, now 5.9 cents per meal, to 25 cents per meal when a district buys at least 30 percent of the ingredients from New York farms.

In another part of the "No Student Goes Hungry" initiative, Cuomo would target hunger among college students by requiring food pantries on all SUNY and CUNY campuses.

The New York Democrat's speech on Jan. 3 also was notable for its expressions of defiance toward the Trump Administration and the Republican-dominated Congress. He announced the state would challenge the Republican-led federal tax overhaul in court and proposed an effort to restructure New York's tax code in response, describing the impact of the federal move on taxpayers in New York and other Democratic-leaning states as "an economic civil war."

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