As schools continue to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic and work toward academic recovery, federal child nutrition programs—like school meals and summer meals—are more important than ever. These programs are proven to reduce food insecurity, improve health, decrease poverty, and provide economic stimulus for communities. They have played a key role in reducing hardship for families during the pandemic.
Beyond reducing hunger, access to good nutrition promotes positive student development and behavior and greater equity in schools. Federal nutrition programs can help address some of the top concerns school administrators have identified ahead of the 2022-2023 school year, including students’ mental/emotional health, kindergarten readiness, family economic circumstances, and school absenteeism.
Over the last two years, schools have worked tirelessly to leverage these programs. Looking to the upcoming school year, your continued action to support strong school meal programs is essential. Key actions include:
1. Extend free school meals for all beyond this school year.
- Voice the need for extended USDA waivers for the 2022-23SY. Without Congressional action, pandemic-related waivers allowing free school meals for all children will expire at the end of this school year, forcing many districts to shift back to an inequitable and burdensome tiered payment system. Tell lawmakers how the waivers have helped your district, and why continued flexibilities are needed. Share your story here
- Consider adopting the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in the 2022-23SY. CEP is a federal option that allows high-poverty schools to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Research has linked CEP participation to reductions in chronic absenteeism and child food insecurity. Schools should start to assess their ability to leverage CEP for the 2022-2023 school year.
- Advocate for statewide universal school meals. This is a critical investment in the health and well-being of New York’s students that would end child hunger in schools, build equity in our education system and provide financial relief to families. Subscribe to our advocacy alerts to get updates.
2. Leverage additional federal programs to support families in and out of school.
- Provide meals beyond the school day – and year. Many school administrators are planning to expand summer and afterschool programming as part of their COVID-19 response. Providing healthy meals helps make the most of these investments. Contact us or visit Afterschool Meals NY and Summer Meals NY to learn more.
- Connect families with nutrition resources. Schools can share information about SNAP and WIC to help ensure students and their families have consistent access to healthy food. Schools also benefit: Increased SNAP participation can improve a school’s ability to adopt CEP, and WIC can support kindergarten readiness for your youngest learners. Visit our Resource Library for outreach resources.
Hunger Solutions New York works one-on-one with school districts to maximize the use of federal nutrition programs and ensure all children have the nutrition they need to stay healthy and succeed.
For more information, please contact Jessica Pino-Goodspeed at Hunger Solutions New York at Jessica.PinoGoodspeed@HungerSolutionsNY.org and (518) 436-8757 x105.