New York State Policy Priorities
In support of New York State’s anti-hunger agenda, NYS should ensure “No Wrong Door” policies among all nutrition assistance programs and between those programs and other low-income programs, including the creation of systemic connections that allow secure sharing of application information among agencies to determine eligibility for all means-tested programs. The following administrative and legislative changes are recommended to maximize number of eligible low-income New Yorkers receiving federal nutrition benefits:
Anti-hunger Prioritization and Programming
Engage the health and medical community to promote nutrition as an essential component of a healthy life:
- Increase provider screening for food insecurity among low-income, vulnerable populations.
- Teach professionals to identify hunger by incorporating training into curricula to recognize signs and symptoms of hunger.
- New York’s Prevention Agenda and other health planning processes should re-establish hunger as a public health priority, and include the identification of policies and programs for the public health and healthcare systems to address food insecurity as a factor in adverse health outcomes.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
In recent years, New York State has taken many positive steps towards maximizing access to, and participation in SNAP. Additional opportunities are available for the state to reduce hunger by increasing the number of eligible people who receive SNAP benefits through simplifying the application process, creating more efficiency across the state, and improving state-based outreach and education efforts. To this end, New York State should:
Improve and expand state-level outreach and education efforts:
- Expand the Nutrition Outreach and Education Program so that it can serve all New York State counties and provide additional services in high-need counties.
- Increase outreach and education to vulnerable populations with low participation.
- Create linkages between Medicaid and SNAP databases to conduct “in-reach” with Medicaid recipients who are currently not receiving SNAP.
- Ensure outreach, education and application assistance through health facilities such as health homes, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and other practices that serve a large percentage of low-income patients.
- Adopt uniform rules and ensure uniform enforcement of SNAP across the state.
- Adopt a standard excess medical deduction.
- Establish a 24-month certification period for kinship non-parent caregiver households.
- Simplify the reporting requirements for six- month reporters by removing the periodic reporting requirement.
- Establish a seamless inter-county transfer process for SNAP recipients who move between counties that would maintain eligibility, ensure continuation of benefits and reduce administrative burdens.
Increase access to SNAP by eligible people:
- Allow students at Community Colleges in NYS who are enrolled in a certificate or degree program considered a career or technical education program to qualify for SNAP.
- Take maximum advantage of federal ABAWD waivers, grant exceptions and exemptions, and provide ABAWD individuals with timely, consistent, understandable instructions on compliance.
- Develop an Elderly Simplified Application Project in NYS.
- Monitor the combined application project (NYSNIP) which will provide individualized budgets for SSI live-alones when automatically enrolling them in SNAP.
Maintain and increase the adequacy of benefits provided through SNAP:
- Continue to provide a nominal LIHEAP benefit to the neediest low-income households, in order to maximize benefit allotments.
- Implement the $21 state-funded energy assistance benefit as created in the 2017-18 NYS budget, to provide all new HEAP-eligible SNAP households the benefit at the time of case opening, without reducing benefits to others.
Maintain food choice for SNAP recipients and support public campaigns that promote healthy eating for all:
- Continue and expand incentive programs to increase buying power for fruits and vegetables at Farmers’ markets and extend these initiatives to include fresh, canned and frozen produce as well as lightly processed food at other types of SNAP retailers.
Child Nutrition Programs
New York State should pursue existing opportunities to improve the administration and delivery of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Through a combination of administrative and legislative changes, we recommended these actions to increase the number of low-income children receiving federally-funded, free, or reduced-price meals through these programs:
1) In-School Meals
School Breakfast Program:
- Require all schools in which 40% or more students qualify for free and reduced-price school lunch to participate in the SBP.
- Require all public and non-public schools with 60% or more students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals to offer a universal, after-the-bell breakfast program with all-student access.
- Issue clear administrative guidance to school districts that time spent in the classroom eating school breakfast counts as instructional time and does not conflict with NYS Education Law.
- Eliminate the reduced-price copayment of 25 cents for breakfast, thereby removing a significant financial barrier for low-income families.
- Provide a 10 cent incentive per school breakfast served through an alternative breakfast service
Community Eligibility Provision:
- Increase the number of eligible schools implementing CEP in order to expand school lunch and breakfast participation.
- Hold CEP schools harmless from change in state aid formula as a result of operating a universal school meal program.
- Require all CEP schools to offer an after-the-bell breakfast program with all-student access.
- Ensure NYSED monitors implementation and continues to make improvements to data matching algorithms within the new state level Direct Certification Matching Process.
2) Meals Beyond the K-12 School Day
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP):
- Improve and expand state-level outreach and education efforts, including:
- Increase outreach, education, application and claiming assistance to providers with low participation.
- Ensure NYS Department of Health regularly assesses, revises if needed, and reports on use of online CACFP prescreening tool for potential providers.
- Strengthen linkages between Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS) and DOH/CACFP databases to conduct “in-reach” with OCFS providers who are not participating in CACFP.
- Create linkages with NYS Education Department and DOH/CACFP databases to conduct “in-reach” with summer meals sponsors and districts that provide afterschool snacks through NSLP.
- Streamline and simplify the administration of CACFP by implementing allowable USDA paperwork reduction recommendations when applicable to NYS.
- Require eligible schools hosting space for afterschool enrichment programs or providing extended learning days to provide access to CACFP’s At-Risk Afterschool Snack/Supper Program and/or NSLP snacks.
- Provide supplemental assistance and/or payments to current and eligible CACFP providers for training, technical assistance and administrative compliance, and in recognition of food and administrative costs to provide the program in NYS.
- Implement and/or encourage model practices from other states that increase participation and retention, such as:
- Offer alternative meal service models such as the umbrella model, meals in the classroom, and campus model.
- Maximize current sponsor capacity (for both affiliated and unaffiliated sites).
- Provide recorded online training opportunities for potential and new sponsors.
- Provide additional technical assistance throughout the application process and beyond.
- Provide guidance specific to school food authorities to show flexibility in sponsor application process for these entities.
Summer Food Service Program:
- Require school districts with eligible schools in underserved communities to provide meals to sites, as a sponsor or vendor, for a minimum of 30 days, with increased administrative support from the regulatory agency.
- Develop a system to promote and connect sites with sponsors in both SFSP and CACFP, including posting information and resources on both agency websites; coordinate, cross promote and cross train on both programs.
- Provide supplemental reimbursement for sponsors who include enrichment activities in their meal service and/or provide transportation to underserved areas.
- Create new funding sources to increase the amount of NYS-grown fruit and vegetables on the menu.
- Create incentive funding sources to encourage eligible programs to offer meals service during weekends and school holidays.