NEW YORK (WWTI) –  During Farm-to-School Month, Governor Kathy Hochul highlighted the work of the State’s revitalized Council on Hunger and Food Policy, which was recently formalized in statute

The Council on Hunger and Food Policy has been officially charged by Hochul to provide recommendations to the State on ways to:

  • Increase the use of healthy and locally grown foods in school meals;
  • Expand food access to underserved communities; and
  • Boost agricultural production and processing.

“While we have emerged from the immediate crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, its effects are lasting, including the need for our families, schools, and communities to access enough fresh, local foods,” 

Governor Kathy Hochul

The Council’s work also supports Hochul’s priorities and advances many State initiatives that promote the resiliency of New York’s food supply chain and bring more NY foods to families in need.

“Through New York’s Council on Hunger and Food Policy and other innovative programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity stress and streamlining our food supply chain, we can make a difference to combat hunger and improve nutrition across the State, while supporting our agricultural community at the same time.”

Governor Kathy Hochul

New York’s Council on Hunger and Food Policy is made up of 25 stakeholders and several affiliates including representatives from: 

  • Government entities;
  • Farmers;
  • Not-for-profit organizations;
  • Agricultural operations;
  • Universities; and
  • Food businesses.

The Council works to provide state policymakers with expertise on how to address hunger and improve access to healthy, locally grown food for state residents and school children.  The Council previously operated under an Executive Order; however, Hochul codified the Council in November 2022 and Chaired by Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball, the Council held its second meeting on Thursday, October 19. The Council’s working groups now meet once per month and the entire Council will meet two to four times per year. 

The Council was critical during the establishment of the State’s 30%  New York State Initiative, which is intended to provide healthy, local food products as part of school lunches. The initiative increases the reimbursement to NY schools for lunches – from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal – for any district that purchases at least 30%  of ingredients from NY farms. Since the Department of Agriculture and Markets took over the administration of the program, it has seen increased participation from school food authorities, a total of 59 participants were approved for reimbursement for this school year, up from the 51 approved last year.

The 30% NYS Initiative builds on New York’s successful Farm-to-School program, which connects schools with local farms and food producers to:

  • Strengthen local agriculture,
  • Improve student health, and
  • Promote regional food systems awareness.

Through the program, the Department provides financial, technical and promotional assistance to schools, farms, distributors and other supporting organizations to bring local, nutritious, seasonally-varied meals to students. The Farm-to-School program supports the Council’s priorities to initiate and facilitate public awareness campaigns about:

  • The economic benefits of a local farm and food economy;
  • Alleviate geographic and economic barriers to improve access to healthy fresh food; and
  • Promote well-balanced child nutrition.

By focusing on strengthening ties and cooperation between programs, the Council’s work also aligns with and supports many additional State programs focused on alleviating food insecurity. This includes:

Also complementing the work of the Council, investments in the 2023-2024 Enacted State Budget are aimed at boosting demand for state agricultural products, strengthening NY’s food supply chain and ensuring all New Yorkers are able to produce and access fresh, local foods. 

This includes $2 million in funding for community garden programming and a $10 million Food Access Expansion Grant program. The Department of Agriculture and Markets announced a Request for Interest earlier this month to help shape the program based on industry needs.

State agencies also work with the federal and local governments to address hunger and food insecurity. In recent years, NY has expanded SNAP by eliminating unnecessary requirements and simplifying the application process. This removes key barriers to reducing hunger for children and adults while continuing efforts to maximize benefits for all who are eligible.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, WIC, provides a monthly prescription of nutritious foods that is made to supplement the dietary needs of more than 425,000 recipients each month.  Additionally, the Child and Adult Care Food Program ensures that healthy meals and snacks are served to over 300,000 children and adults in daycare settings each day. 

The Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program, along with the Nourish New York Initiative, supports the more than 400 million emergency meals that are provided through a network of about 2,700 Emergency Food Relief Organizations. You can learn more by visiting the  DOH’s Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program’s website.