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Healthy School Meals for All advocates urge action

todayMarch 29, 2024 3

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MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. (WROC) — All eyes are on the New York State budget due in just a few days. Leaders in school meal initiatives now take this opportunity to encourage New Yorkers to speak up if they’d like their kids to eat at school every day for free.

They reinforced the days of the COVID funding and showed just how much such a system really works.

“It was great! We’ve been working on that for years—going to Washington, going to Albany, working on that for years—it finally happens, and then the next year, they take it away,” says Scott Ziobrowski, the Director of Food Service at Hilton Central School District.

Hunger Solutions New York reports that 39 schools in Monroe County don’t qualify for the current Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The guidelines allow free school meals but requires 25 percent or more of the student body to be below an income threshold. The 2023-2024 school year metric only allows for $39,000 a year or less for a family of four. 

“In Monroe County, it’s estimated that a family would need to earn at least $61,000 just to meet their basic needs of housing, food, and shelter. So you can see there’s a gap, and that’s a gap that lawmakers can help to fill,” explains Hunger Solutions NY Director of Public Affairs Krista Hesdorfer.

Ziobrowski says it’s even more difficult for families in the Hilton district where a few schools qualify while others do not.

“So you might have three kids—one in each school—and one of the schools doesn’t qualify,” he says. “It is very tough to have those conversations with families on why their students don’t qualify, and we have ways to help them as best we can.”

He says he and all the school meal directors he’s spoken with agree a universal free meal option would remove not only the disparities but also the stigma of asking for help.

“There is a pride factor there, which is sad to say. There are also families who really don’t know what is and is not available to them,” Ziobrowski says.

The “Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids” legislation just passed both the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets, but the test is Governor Hochul’s final state budget–initially due April 1 but extended to April 4 as of Thursday. The proposal calls for $80 million, which Hunger Solutions estimates is less than half of one percent of the state budget. 

“What would it mean for a family in Monroe County to have one less bill to pay? To have to spend a little bit less at the grocery store amid skyrocketing food costs,” says Hesdorfer.

“It’s super important for the kids to be fed every day and not have to come to school and worry about if they have enough money or where they’re going to get their next meal from,” adds Ziobrowski.

These leaders suggest contacting your state legislators representing your region if you would like to voice your opinions on the Healthy School Meals for All initiative.

​ MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. (WROC) — All eyes are on the New York State budget due in just a few days. Leaders in school meal initiatives now take this opportunity to encourage New Yorkers to speak up if they’d like their kids to eat at school every day for free.

They reinforced the days of the COVID funding and showed just how much such a system really works.

“It was great! We’ve been working on that for years—going to Washington, going to Albany, working on that for years—it finally happens, and then the next year, they take it away,” says Scott Ziobrowski, the Director of Food Service at Hilton Central School District.

Hunger Solutions New York reports that 39 schools in Monroe County don’t qualify for the current Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The guidelines allow free school meals but requires 25 percent or more of the student body to be below an income threshold. The 2023-2024 school year metric only allows for $39,000 a year or less for a family of four. 

“In Monroe County, it’s estimated that a family would need to earn at least $61,000 just to meet their basic needs of housing, food, and shelter. So you can see there’s a gap, and that’s a gap that lawmakers can help to fill,” explains Hunger Solutions NY Director of Public Affairs Krista Hesdorfer.

Ziobrowski says it’s even more difficult for families in the Hilton district where a few schools qualify while others do not.

“So you might have three kids—one in each school—and one of the schools doesn’t qualify,” he says. “It is very tough to have those conversations with families on why their students don’t qualify, and we have ways to help them as best we can.”

He says he and all the school meal directors he’s spoken with agree a universal free meal option would remove not only the disparities but also the stigma of asking for help.

“There is a pride factor there, which is sad to say. There are also families who really don’t know what is and is not available to them,” Ziobrowski says.

The “Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids” legislation just passed both the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets, but the test is Governor Hochul’s final state budget–initially due April 1 but extended to April 4 as of Thursday. The proposal calls for $80 million, which Hunger Solutions estimates is less than half of one percent of the state budget. 

“What would it mean for a family in Monroe County to have one less bill to pay? To have to spend a little bit less at the grocery store amid skyrocketing food costs,” says Hesdorfer.

“It’s super important for the kids to be fed every day and not have to come to school and worry about if they have enough money or where they’re going to get their next meal from,” adds Ziobrowski.

These leaders suggest contacting your state legislators representing your region if you would like to voice your opinions on the Healthy School Meals for All initiative. Read More Local NewsRochesterFirst  

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