New York State lawmakers, educators and school leaders met at the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 9 to discuss a tragic yet all-too-persistent issue confronting our state: Student hunger in our schools.
Through personal stories and statistics, the speakers painted a clear picture: From the city to the suburbs to the countryside and in all ZIP codes — even our state's wealthiest — too many of our children are going hungry.
What do we know? Students who eat regular, nutritious meals are more focused, better behaved, are better able to learn and feel supported by the adults they trust to care for them.
One in seven New York children experiences hunger, and the insecurity and stigma that go along with this. This is especially the case in our most vulnerable, underserved communities. Responsible educators and lawmakers know we have a moral duty to do everything we can to set our students up for success. Ensuring our students don't go hungry should be one of the first ways we do that.
What else do we know? This is solvable.
Funding school meals is an investment in the future of our state. We can significantly reduce child hunger throughout our state and help boost up an entire generation of children to be better off, healthier and more productive in the long run. We are all committed to investing in our teachers, schools and communities. But even the best teachers and schools will struggle to teach hungry children.
Social studies teachers Matt Root and Mark Parrish, North Syracuse Education Association, started a high school food pantry with their students that feeds 240 students weekly.
More than 726,000 New York state students lost access to free school meals when federal waivers expired in June of 2022.