Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently reminded parents that while the school year is drawing to a close, thousands of children remain eligible for free, nutritious meals at hundreds of sites around New York state this summer. State agencies are working with nonprofit and private partners to increase awareness of the Summer Food Service Program, which fills a gap for families who rely on free and reduced-price school meals during the school year to help feed their children. The governor also issued a proclamation marking July as “Summer Meals Month” in New York to highlight the issue.
“No child should have to go hungry—and through the Summer Food Service Program, we are working to feed hundreds of thousands of children who normally depend on their schools for free and reduced-price meals,” Cuomo said. “This program is vital to New Yorkers all across the state, and our administration is committed to making sure that it reaches as many families in need as possible.”
The federally funded Summer Food Service Program, administered by the New York State Education Department, provides free, nutritious meals and snacks at participating sites, including schools, parks, recreation centers and other neighborhood locations. The program benefits children 18 years old and younger from low-income households, as well as young adults over age 18 who are enrolled in school programs for persons with disabilities.
Approximately 400,000 children a day will receive meals through the program this summer. Many summer meal sites also offer fun activities, so children and teens can stay active and spend time with friends while enjoying healthy meals.
A recent study by the Food Research and Action Center notes that while the number of New York students who participated in the program last year increased 5 percent from 2012, only an estimated three out of 10 eligible students are being fed.
Various government agencies and nonprofits are partnering to spread the word about the program, doing everything from hosting local outreach events to disseminating information on social media by using #summermeals. The New York State Education Department has an interactive map online with information on all the summer meal sites in New York that can be accessed here. The New York State Department of Health’s Growing Up Healthy Hotline, 1-800-522-5006, can also help you locate a summer meal site in your community.
“Only one in three families who rely on a food pantry or soup kitchen in New York City participate in the summer meal program; many simply do not know that free and nutritious meals are available for their children when school is out,” said Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of the Food Bank for New York City and chair of Cuomo’s Anti-Hunger Task Force. “Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, and thanks to the leadership of Gov. Cuomo, neither will our efforts to provide New Yorkers the resources and information they need to feed themselves and their loved ones.”
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said, “Good nutrition is essential to learning. That’s why we provide breakfast and lunch to needy students throughout the school year. But the need for healthy meals doesn’t end in June when school lets out. So we’re happy to help coordinate the Summer Food Service Program here in New York, ensuring that children have access to nutritious meals at many sites throughout the state, from schools to summer camps to migrant programs.”
“The meals served at these sites prevent hunger and make a difference in communities all over the state,” New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Kristin M. Proud said. “Our partners on the local level and in the nonprofit and private sectors are key to ensuring that no child misses a meal because they are unaware of these opportunities.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Every child needs access to healthy meals, and we all have to do our part to ensure that empty classrooms doesn’t mean empty stomachs. This important summer meal program will help ensure that our children can get the nutritious food they need. When we invest in healthy meals for our youth, we improve their chances of success in the classroom and beyond.”
Rep. Nita M. Lowey said, “It is vital that children who depend on the school lunch program have access to meals during summer vacation. As the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, I have fought for increased funding for school lunches and will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and Gov. Cuomo to make sure children in New York receive the nutritional lunches they need.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said, “This important partnership ensures kids all across the Hudson Valley have access to fresh, nutritious food during the summer months. As the father of two middle schoolers, I know how important a well-balanced meal is to keep our kids healthy.”