The city should boost its free supper program for students, says Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos.
The push would build off of existing programs providing free breakfast and lunch at city schools.
Kallos, a Democrat, says if the city expands after-school programs, it will be able to tap federal funds for late-day meals.
“We’re leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table,” Kallos told the Daily News. “We could guarantee every child three square meals a day and end youth hunger as we know it.
“We should have community schools where the schools are there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. while parents are at work,” he added.
The Education Department already offers supper at after-school programs, but at a far lower rate than free breakfast and lunch. In fiscal year 2019, the latest year for which the the department had data, an average of 58,128 suppers were given out per day. That compared with 218,153 free breakfasts before the bell per day and 603,244 daily free lunches.
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“Any school that needs this service can request it,” education spokesman Nathaniel Styer said of after-school meals. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our heroic food service employees have kept our students fed with nutritious, healthy food and we thank the Council member for his proposal and advocacy.”
Kallos called on the city to expand after-school programs so it can tap a U.S. Department of Agriculture program subsidizing free suppers — which he estimated would cost less than $200 million per year.
Councilman Ben Kallos (Danielle Hyams/New York Daily News)
His call for more free meals comes as some mayoral candidates are pushing to transform schools into holistic centers that provide all kinds of services. Maya Wiley, a former aide to Mayor de Blasio, recently said each school should be a “center of community.” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams wants schools to provide services on everything from eyeglasses to nutrition.
For Kallos, expanded free supper is a no-brainer — and a cause he’d push for if elected Manhattan borough president.
“It’s really hard to learn when you’re hungry,” he said. “We’re not yet in a place where every single student doesn’t have to worry where their next meal is coming from.”
Other Democratic candidates in the heated borough president race include former state official Lindsey Boylan — who made headlines for shocking allegations of sexual harassment against Gov. Cuomo — along with state Sen. Brad Hoylman and Councilman Mark Levine.