Hunger in Schools on the Plate at NYC Council

April 28, 2015
Sarah Anders
SAndersatBenKallos [dot] com

(212) 860-1950


Matt Ojala
mojalaatcouncil [dot] nyc [dot] gov
(212) 788-7348
Hunger in Schools on the Plate at NYC Council
Bill requires public reporting on school meals including breakfast, salad at lunch, snacks and supper
New York, NY   Hunger in schools is being taken on by new legislation requiring reporting and planning on free school meals for 1.1 million public school children, being introduced by Council Members Ben Kallos and Stephen Levin today. One quarter of New York City children are food insecure, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. New York City ranks second-to-last among 62 large school districts in effectiveness in reaching children eligible for free breakfast surveyed by the Food Research and Action Center. Advocates have pushed for “Breakfast After the Bell”—free breakfast in classrooms, after the school day begins—to increase participation rates.

The bill requires the Department of Education (DOE) to report yearly to the City Council and to the general public through an online report:
  • The number of students participating in school breakfast before the bell and free school after the bell
  • The number of qualifying students participating in after-school meals, snacks and supper
  • Free salad bars, use and selection of vegetables
  • Steps to increase participation through special initiatives and new proposals.  
This year's City Council Budget Response included Breakfast After the Bell, pointing out that comparable cities like Los Angeles received $16 million in federal funds for implementing the program. Efforts to increase healthy, free school meal participation have been a city priority. The City Council successfully advocated for free middle school lunches in last year's budget after advocates revealed that many qualifying students did not take advantage of free lunch because of the stigma among students. Participation rose by 8% in participating middle schools, according to Lunch 4 Learning.

"No public school child should have to go hungry, especially in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. I want to live in a city where no child goes hungry, from cradle to career," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Breakfast After the Bell will increase participation rates among students and bring more federal dollars to feed the hungry and support local jobs. It's a win-win."

“When children are hungry at school they don’t learn. New York City has an obligation to ensure that all of our students achieve at the highest level by providing breakfast and other meals throughout the day and we need to keep track of how they are doing so," said Council Member Stephen Levin.

"While we know that healthy food fuels success for children, only a quarter of NYC students are eating free school breakfast, 1 in 5 NYC children is at risk of hunger, childhood obesity rates remain too high, and NYC recently ranked 61 out of 62 urban districts with regard to the take-up rate for school breakfast.  NYC public school children need universal Breakfast After the Bell programs, salad bars with fresh, nutritious food, universal free lunch, and after-school snacks.  The data in Council Member Kallos’ bill will provide us with the ammunition we need to demonstrate the need to take immediate actions to ensure all school children are eating nutritious meals during and after the school day," said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director, Policy and Government Relations, Citizens’ Committee for Children.

“Low-income parents face multiple barriers to feeding their families healthy meals, but school food doesn’t have to be one of them. With publicly available data on school breakfasts and snacks we believe we can better advocate for increased participation by promoting policies such as breakfast after the bell," said Stewart Desmond, Executive Director, West Side Campaign Against Hunger.