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Report: New York Ranks 39th In Providing Students Breakfast

Lucas Willard

A group dedicated to reducing child hunger has released a new report that shows New York ranks low among the 50 states in providing students with breakfast.

Hunger Solutions New York released a report Thursday that provides more details on schools participating in school breakfast programs. The takeaway: New York can do better.

Jessica Pino-Goodspeed is a Child Nutrition Specialist and author of School Breakfast: Reducing Child Hunger, Bolstering Student Success.

"We rank 39th in the nation. Which is really concerning. It's a lot of kids missing out on an important meal, which is important to their academic success. And also it's a lot of federal money that we forfeit that could be going to hungry kids."

The report shows that nearly $80 million in federal reimbursement was forfeited by New York due to low school breakfast participation last year.

Of more than 1.5 million students qualified to eat free or reduced-price breakfast, only 28 percent actually did. 

Speaking in Albany at the New York State Museum, Sherry Tomasky, Public Affairs Director for Hunger Solutions, says there has been progress across the state in districts accessing federal support.

"Districts that have adopted the Community Eligibility Provision have made tremendous gains in the number of children that they can feed on any given day with the school breakfast program. And those school districts are models for the rest of the state."

In fact, one of the most successful in New York is the Schenectady City School District.

Superintendent Larry Spring said programs like breakfast-in-the-classroom for elementary school students has boosted attendance.

"The first year that we started doing universal free breakfast, we saw an immediate and significant increase in the numbers of students that were attending 95 percent of the time, and a significant decrease in students who are chronically absent," said Spring.

The students also see the benefit. Jefny is a student at North Albany Academy, a K-8 school in the Albany City School District.

"I think breakfast is helpful for every student so they don't fall asleep in class and they can learn all the stuff they need to do so they can get into a good school, a good college, and a good job."

Hunger Solutions New York is hoping the report can lead to state action to get more districts to offer free breakfast programs.

Capital Region Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said that starts with fair school funding. Santabarbara said legislation like the Small Cities School Bill, which would tweak the school aid formula, is a good place to start.

"It talks about the school being a community center — the services they provide that really falls on the district to make sure they provide these services, because if they don't, educational outcomes do not improve."

For more information visit: http://schoolmealshubny.org

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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