In New York State, No Student Goes Hungry

by Gabrielle Khalife
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy Name: The Governor’s No Student Goes Hungry Program


New York State

Population: 19.8M (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017)


In August 2018, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the launch of the No Student Goes Hungry Program. This comprehensive program addresses food insecurity by banning lunch shaming, requiring breakfast after the bell, expanding the Farm-to-School program, increasing access to farm-fresh foods for all public school students from kindergarten through high school, and requiring all SUNY and CUNY public campuses to have a food pantry and/or free food access by the end of the fall 2018 semester. This strategic investment of state funds aims to nourish New York children, improve student health and well-being, support school nutrition programs and boost the state’s agricultural economy.

Progress to date:

On December 28, 2017, Governor Cuomo unveiled the 15th proposal of the 2018 State of the State: launch a comprehensive program to provide students of all ages, backgrounds and financial situations access to healthy, locally-sourced meals from kindergarten through college.

On August 9, 2018, Governor Cuomo announced that $1.5 million is available for eligible school districts to support the growth of farm-to-school programs across New York State ahead of the upcoming school year. The farm-to-school program helps kindergarten through grade 12 schools to increase the volume and variety of locally grown and produced food on school menus, improve student health, and educate young people about agriculture. It also assists the agricultural economy by providing additional business to New York’s farmers.

On August 28, 2018, Governor Cuomo announced the launch of the five-point No Student Goes Hungry Program.

On August 29, 2018, Governor Cuomo announced that all campuses of The State University of New York and The City University of New York will have a food pantry or stigma-free food access for students in need by the end of the fall semester.

Program/Policy Initiated: August 28, 2018

Food policy category: Food Insecurity/Food Security

Program goals: to combat food insecurity and hunger by providing students with locally grown, nutritious meals and supporting an improved learning experience for children of all ages

How it works:

No Student Goes Hungry is a five-point program designed to ensure that all New York students are able to get the nutrition they need to succeed. The program will:

    1. Ban Lunch Shaming Statewide: In some schools children are publicly humiliated in front of their peers for not having money for lunch. In many cases, these students are forced to wear a sticker or bracelet, or have their names called over the loudspeaker. In other cases, these students are given alternative, lesser quality lunches, such as a cold cheese sandwich, when other students get hot lunches. The governor has proposed a law that would immediately end the practice of lunch shaming of any kind by prohibiting any public act to humiliate a student who cannot afford lunch, and requiring these students to receive the same lunch as others starting in the 2018-19 school year.  
    2. Require “Breakfast After the Bell”: Currently high-need schools– schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch–in New York are required to offer breakfast. However, the current law does not specify when these meals should be offered. Therefore, many schools offer meals before the school day begins and buses arrive, which leaves many students without an opportunity to have breakfast. In order to make breakfast more accessible to students and prevent them from going hungry during morning classes, the program requires high-need schools to provide breakfast after the school day has begun. To ease the transition, the state will provide technical assistance and capital funds for equipment such as refrigerators, coolers and  breakfast kiosks to support breakfast after the bell. An estimated $7 million in capital funds will support expanded breakfast for 1,400 schools.
    3. Expand the Farm-to-School Program: New York has doubled the state’s investment in the Farm-to-School program from $750,000 to $1.5 million to support the use of healthy, local foods in school districts across the state. The program was created to help schools provide students with nutritious meals by connecting the schools with local farmers, and providing them with technical assistance and increased capacity to source products locally. By doubling its investment, the State is also doubling the number of students being helped. 
    4. Increase the Use of Farm-Fresh, Locally Grown Foods Served at Schools: Lack of healthy, nutritious food can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school. Providing children with nutritious, locally grown foods supports healthy eating habits and is critical to their development. However, for a variety of reasons, particularly cost, many school districts are not offering healthier locally-sourced options. To incentivize school districts to use more local farm-fresh products, the program is increasing the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from the current 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent of its ingredients from New York farms — a win-win for students and New York’s local farms.
    5. Require Food Pantries on All SUNY and CUNY Campuses: Currently, only about half of all SUNY and CUNY campuses have food pantries in place. To ensure that healthy food options are consistently available to young adults on college campuses, the program has required all SUNY and CUNY schools to either provide physical food pantries on campus, or to enable students to receive food through a separate arrangement that is stigma-free. This makes New York the first state to require every public campus to have a food pantry. The governor has proposed a $1 million state investment for schools to implement the program.

Why it is important:

One in five children in New York State are food insecure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child hunger is associated with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism and inability to focus in class. The No Student Goes Hungry Program is making breakfast more accessible for students and lunches stigma-free. Combined with policies to expand the Farm-To-School program and improve meal quality, the program is helping students get the healthy meals they need to succeed. Further, the program makes New York a national “farm-to-school” leader by offering an incentive to schools to purchase local products, thus expanding  school children’s access to healthy New York food while bolstering the state’s agricultural economy. Increased access to fresh food in schools has been found to lower child obesity rates, which promotes healthier families and communities. This in turn has a positive impact on students’ mental health, improving their social skills, their self-esteem and their work ethic. In summary, this initiative is an effective strategy for removing the barriers to healthy food options while providing a supportive learning environment for students across the state.

Evaluation: The immediate results of the No Student Goes Hungry Program are measurable, including an increase in the number of children eating school breakfast, an increase in healthier, locally-sourced school lunches and additional funding coming into local schools. Over the long-term, other measurable impacts include improved student performance and grades, increase in classroom attentiveness and better behavior, increase in school attendance and overall health. Individual schools are responsible for the establishment and evaluation of the programs they implement.

Learn more:

Point of Contact:

The Governor’s Press Office

T: (212) 681-4640


Similar practices:

Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, lunch has been free for all students who attend a New York City Public School. The Free School Lunch for All program allows 100 percent of students to be eligible, irrespective of income, providing an additional 200,000 students with free lunch. The program serves to provide financial relief to families and ensure that all students are receiving healthy, nutritious meals to stay focused in school. Read more.


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