Food insecurity targeted with sweeping policy initiative for kids, parents

Council Speaker Corey Johnson unveiled his food policy initiative on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson unveiled his food policy initiative on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The city’s free summer meals program for youngsters could be expanded to include parents next year, according to a sweeping food policy initiative unveiled by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Thursday.

Johnson also pledged to work on creating more deli-style cafeterias in the city’s middle and high schools, boost the number of nutrition programs in schools and bring more “scratch-cooked” meals to students.

“Access to adequate nutritious food is a human right,” Johnson said during a speech at the Cypress Hills Community School at P.S. 89 in Brooklyn. “This principle isn’t just for developing countries …1 million New Yorkers are food insecure.”

The summer meals program, which provides free breakfast and lunch to all people 18 and under in the city, is considered a lifeline for kids who depend on the meals they receive at school during the rest of the year. But critics have said the program lacks sufficient outreach because not enough parents know about it or can find distribution points.

Johnson said the Council will consider legislation requiring schools to send home “targeted information” about the summer meals program, including nearby locations. He also promised to work with the de Blasio Administration on a pilot Summer Companion Meals program that would allow parents and guardians to receive these free meals with their children.

The Speaker’s report, titled “Growing Food Equity in New York City,” has several other recommendations such as increasing Health Bucks, a program that provides low-income New Yorkers with coupons to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.

In order to support community gardens, Johnson said the Council plans to explore the creation of an Office of Urban Agriculture.

“Getting people more healthy food options should be one of our top priorities as a city,” he said.