Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York is one of six states selected to participate in a federal pilot program that will allow thousands of low-income students in New York City to be given greater and faster access to school meals programs, and ensure that these students do not go hungry.
New York will collaborate with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service on a new demonstration project to connect eligible low-income children with free school meals automatically based on information received from Medicaid. The new process will allow for administrative efficiencies, reduce improper payments and streamline efforts to provide access to critical nutrition for kids across the nation. Students from 353 New York City schools will participate in the program.
"New York's collaboration with USDA on this pilot project will help hundreds of thousands of low-income children in New York City receive free meals at school," Governor Cuomo said. "New York State has made ending child hunger a top priority, and this program will support our efforts to improve nutrition and access to healthy meals in our schools. I thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and hard work."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that six states will collaborate with USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. Alaska, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, New York and Pennsylvania will begin their respective projects on July 1 for school year 2012-2013.
"These demonstration projects are just the latest example of USDA's ongoing efforts to modernize our services and improve the lives of kids and their families," Secretary Vilsack said in a statement. "By relying upon existing data, we streamline operations, reduce payment errors and improve the efficiency of operations at the federal and local level. At the same time we are ensuring that we deliver healthy meals to more eligible kids so that they have access to the nutrition they need to learn and excel."
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, "Every child needs access to healthy meals and too many of our children are falling victim to the obesity crisis. This new program is a common sense step towards ensuring that our city youth achieve their full potential. When we invest in healthy meals for our city schoolchildren, we improve their chances of success in the classroom and beyond."
"Too many children don't get the healthy meals they need," State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said. "The USDA's approval of the State Education Department's application will help build on the Department's ongoing efforts to ensure that all students have healthy meals. The partnership with SED, USDA and Governor Cuomo will make sure thousands of New York kids don't go hungry."
Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said, "New York's participation in this essential pilot program is a win-win, which will bring more federal money into the state while feeding more hungry children. This is a great step toward reaching Governor Cuomo's goal of ending child hunger in New York."
USDA provided the following information regarding the program:
The passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 marks the first time that states have been allowed to test this new process, called direct certification, with Medicaid information. USDA selected the demonstration states through a competitive application process. Under the legislation, the areas selected to participate will be expanded in future years, which will allow additional states to participate.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service will conduct a formal study to evaluate the effectiveness of the projects. The study -- with the results published in reports to Congress in 2014 and 2015 -- will estimate the following impacts:
The extent to which direct certification for each demonstration category reaches children who are eligible for free school meals but are not certified to receive them;
The extent to which the projects directly certify eligible children who are enrolled for free school meals based on a household application; and
The effect direct certification with the Medicaid program has on federal and state costs, and on participation in the school lunch and breakfast programs.
The demonstration projects are just one of the major components of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, now implemented or under development, that will work together to reform school nutrition. In addition to the updated meal standards, unprecedented improvements to come include:
The ability to take nutrition standards beyond the lunchline for the first time ever, foods and beverages sold in vending machines and other venues on school campuses will also contribute to a healthy diet;
Increased funding for schools -- an additional 6 cents a meal is the first real increase in 30 years -- tied to strong performance in serving improved meals;
Common-sense pricing standards for schools to ensure that revenues from non-Federal sources keep pace with the Federal commitment to healthy school meals and properly align with costs; and
Training and technical assistance to help schools achieve and monitor compliance.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that, in addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and National School Lunch Program, also include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Summer Food Service Program. Taken together, these programs comprise America's nutrition safety net.
For more information, visit: www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/grants.htm.