March 7, 2023
By: Julie Kronick
Food insecurity is a significant issue impacting children across New York State, related inextricably to well-being and child poverty. In February, CCC took part in a press conference hosted by the West Side Campaign Against Hunger and other food security advocacy groups to address anti-hunger policies that would help families now, including how to address the sunsetting of the SNAP Emergency Allotment distributions on March 1, which were instrumental in supporting families during the pandemic and through ongoing recovery.
The loss of these benefits is significant. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, of the states that still offered additional SNAP benefits through the federal program, which no longer offer them as of March 1, “every household…will receive at least $95 a month less…the average person will receive about $90 a month less in SNAP benefits.” With prices at the cash register at all-time highs due to a 40-year inflation, this will send many families in New York over a hunger cliff as families still struggle to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic. As this NY Daily News article reports, “some 1.7 million low-income New Yorkers are facing an abrupt end to a pandemic program that helped put food on the table” with the additional stress that “some households will see their monthly funds cut as much as $250 a month.”
A Spectrum News article, which cited data from our Child and Family Well-being Index, detailed the struggles families are facing with all of these beneficial programs ending. As cost of living is rising significantly across New York State alongside a 40-year high inflation, we’re on a path that seems to be working against NY’s commitment to reducing child poverty. However, there are a number of policies and investments that can work to reverse the devastating impact of these issues and both CCC’s State Budget Priorities and take action campaigns explain several opportunities to do so for State Leaders.
As these conversations suggest, child well-being is significantly influenced by food security. Even as families struggle with the fluctuating economy, there is a solution to tackle child hunger that we have seen work, both federally during the pandemic and in NYC: keeping kids fed through a Universal School Meals program. A recent Vox article explains the impact of the emergency federal program which allowed schools to provide free lunch to all children across the US during the COVID-19 crisis. The article states that nationally, “food insecurity in at-risk households with children declined by about 7 percentage points between the beginning of the pandemic and summer 2021” as a result of the federal program. Data shows that 1 in 7 children in New York State experience regular hunger and we know from our own data analysis that in 22 counties in the state, more than 20% of children live in households below the poverty level. But since the cost of living in New York is higher than the national average, we also know that thousands more families in our communities are struggling with food insecurity among other material hardships without access to benefits.
The expiration of federal funding for free school meals has hurt students and families across New York, resulting in more than 726,000 students and nearly 2,000 schools losing access to free school meals. While in NYC students can get free meals alongside their education, even when their families are struggling, this is not the case for all of New York. While schools in other parts of the state are struggling to collect school meal debt from families who cannot afford to pay, universal meals would ease the financial burden on struggling families and school budgets. Universal school meals will also improve child health, attendance, academics, and behavior in school. Requiring universal school meals will help reduce hunger, eliminate stigma, and help improve the health, well-being, and academic success of students. The Healthy School Meals for All NY Kids Coalition is a New York State campaign that is urging our State Leaders to fund universal free school meals in the State budget. Join CCC and other advocates in calling on our elected officials to implement a program we know works to combat child poverty and food insecurity. Click here to sign the Coalition’s take action campaign now.