We appreciate your recent article "New York a Hungry City" about a recent national report that found nearly one in four households with children experience hunger.
One problem your article highlighted was the low-rate of participation among children in the city's school breakfast program.
A recent study by the Food Research Action Center did find a slight improvement. NYC now is only the third worst large city in the country in terms of participation in the school breakfast program, up from the second worst in the prior year.
Chicago, though still among the worst, was cited for having increased the participation rate by the most through implementation of the breakfast in the classroom program in over half of its elementary schools. Chicago recently announced that it would implement the program in all schools.
New York City has also adopted the breakfast in the classroom program to try to increase participation. However, participation by schools is voluntary and most principals have not yet decided to participate, and even in schools that do have it, not every classroom participates. The City Council speaker's recent report, Food Works, called for the in breakfast program to be mandated at least in low-income schools. Others feel more needs to be done to promote children taking advantage that breakfast is available for free in every public school in NYC.
While there are many inspiring stories of improved breakfast participation in individual schools, more leadership is needed from the mayor and school chancellor. Our education leaders need to embrace that good nutrition is a pathway to an improved education system.
The importance of increasing participation in school meals programs is highlighted by the recent census report showing record levels of poverty, especially for children, in America. Nearly one in six Americans are now officially poor. Statewide, the poverty rate was 43 percent among households headed by a single mother and 24.6 percent among children younger than 18. A recent report by the City's Independent Budget Office found a link between poverty and school performance.
The rise in poverty has led to a surge both at emergency food programs and in the SNAP/food stamp program. Unfortunately Congress has cut funding for food programs such as food stamps, WIC and emergency food (TEFAP).
Mark A. Dunlea
Hunger Action Network of NYS