Partly cloudy this evening, then becoming cloudy after midnight. Low 27F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph..
Partly cloudy this evening, then becoming cloudy after midnight. Low 27F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: January 24, 2023 @ 10:19 pm

Prior to the pandemic, 59% of New York state schools provided free meals to family-income eligible students. However, during the pandemic, all public-school students, regardless of income, could take part in the free meal program.
Sometimes good things come to an end. The COVID-19 pandemic federally funded free breakfast and lunch for all public-school students expired last June, at the end of the school year. According to the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) website, the current income eligibility in New York is as follows:
• Free lunch–Income up to 130% of poverty ($34,450 for a family of 4 annually)
• Reduced lunch–Income up to 185% of poverty ($49,025 for a family of 4 annually)
• Full price (paid by family)-Income over 185% of poverty ($49,025 for a family of 4 annually)
Over 700,000 New York students (about half the population of Hawaii) lost access to the free meals when the pandemic-inspired program ended. The Niagara Falls School District is a “community eligible” district, which means every school has at least 40% or more students living within the boundaries of poverty. The change in legislation has not had a negative effect on the district.
That’s a good thing.
Gov. Kathy Hochul did not include the meal program in her budget — 75% of New York’s students qualify and still have access to free school meals without the federal program. However, that still leaves plenty of students and their families straddling the fence. Depending on where you live, a $50,000 income for a family of four is barely enough to live on.
Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas and Sen. Michelle Hinchey each introduced a bill to establish a more permanent solution for school-aged New Yorkers. The campaign is called Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids. The primary goal is to provide a no-income based healthy meal program for all NYS students.
There is another reason besides poverty that should motivate lawmakers to make free and healthy meals available to all students.
I know students can focus better on schoolwork if they are not hungry. It’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.
A Google search turned up some data on food insecurity and malnutrition. A 2018 New York State School Breakfast Report states 1 in 5 NYS students are “food insecure”. Simply put, they don’t have access to adequate food in which to support a healthy and an active lifestyle.
A query on “What is the rate of diabetes among K-12 public school students in New York State?” turned out a plethora of articles, facts, figures and resources about child obesity and diabetes on children. Keeping the focus on low-income students and families overlooks a larger problem that also affects so many students, regardless of income: the impact of diabetes on youth.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable and yet the number of youth under the age of 20 living with Type 2 diabetes grew 95% between 2001-2017 according to Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) research.
A NYS Department of Health report (revised in 2012) titled, “Children with Diabetes: A resource guide for families and schools” expresses some startling probabilities regarding the lifetime risk for U.S. children born in 2000 and after:
• 1 in 3 males will develop diabetes
• 2 in 5 females will develop diabetes
• 1 in 2 Hispanic females will develop diabetes
They found the greatest increases in Type 2 diabetes Black, Hispanic and Native American youth, but just like adults, obesity and poor nutrition are contributing factors.
Clearly, more students are increasingly at risk of developing diabetes complications at an earlier age. Prevention is less expensive than treatment for chronic health conditions. The impact of diabetes on kids is concerning because it has the potential to impact our future workforce. The cost to taxpayers today might improve the cost of health insurance tomorrow. Healthier children should become healthy adults who can be more productive and lead healthier lives.
Almost 10 years have passed since former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to ban restaurants from selling 16oz and larger sugary sodas, juices and other high-calorie drinks. He was onto something.
Gov. Hochul should work with lawmakers to come up with a plan for free healthy meal options for all public-school students. Their lives depend on it.
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