For decades the state has contributed just a fraction of what it costs to feed students during school meals. Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther tells our Eva McKend her and her colleagues can do more to help schools struggling to provide nutritious meals.
LIBERTY, N.Y. -- For more than 40 years, New York schools have received just six cents from the state for school meals.
But with federal regulations mandating schools provide healthier choices, cafeteria managers say more funding is needed.
"We've had an increase in food cost and we are just trying to make sure that we can absolutely provide the best meals we can for our students," said Dawn Boyes, Sullivan BOCES cafeteria manager and chef.
According to the New York School Nutrition Association, an increase to 26 cents per meal would allow schools to operate while meeting the standards of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther agrees.
"We are trying to get better choices, more whole grains, getting kids to eat salad but in order to do that and to buy that fresh food, they need more money in our school districts," said Gunther.
Sullivan County has the second worst health indicators in New York State.
Many children return to homes with no food, leaving the school cafeteria as the best and only source of nutrition.
"Food insecurity for kids, it's a real issue for many of our families," said Nancy McGraw, Sullivan County's public health director.
"If you are hungry, how can you focus? We don't want our children to be hungry," said Gunther.
Gunther is currently circulating a letter of support among her colleagues so that changes in the budget can be made come spring,
"It's our job to make it a priority right now."