Assemblymember McMahon: New School Meal Legislation Will Help Support Local Farmers

Assemblymember Karen McMahon (D-Amherst/Pendleton) introduced legislation that would provide much-needed financial help to local farmers by amending the New York school lunch reimbursement program to allow food used for breakfast programs to count towards the 30 percent threshold required for schools to qualify (A.10320).

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on workers across the state, and our farmers are no exception,” said McMahon. “That’s why I’ve sponsored legislation to expand eligibility for the New York school lunch reimbursement program, which promotes the health and well-being of schoolchildren as well as supports New York dairy farmers. This crisis has made it clear that we need to protect our farmers, and this bill will ensure that these hardworking men and women have additional support as we recover from this economic downturn.”

New York farmers are struggling due to the closures of schools and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since they have nowhere to sell their excess dairy products, some farmers have been forced to start dumping milk.[1]

“With the serious economic challenges created by this pandemic, support from our lawmakers is especially needed as we weather this storm together. New York’s farmers must expand market opportunities for the healthy food they produce. This includes getting more product into schools once they reopen, benefiting our students and farms families. New York Farm Bureau thanks Assemblymember McMahon for recognizing this need and introducing legislation to expand the school reimbursement program,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.

The reimbursement program for school lunches was created in 2018 and allows schools to be reimbursed for food costs if they spend at least 30 percent of their funds on New York State food products. In addition to helping schools by reimbursing costs, the school lunch program also benefits local farmers. Currently, lunches are the only meal that count toward the 30 percent threshold, despite the fact that many schools purchase plenty of milk, yogurt, cheese and fresh fruit for their breakfast programs. McMahon’s legislation would give schools access to previously allocated and underutilized funding as well as significantly expand the benefits of the program to additional schools.

“Nearly 5,000 schools currently offer lunch programs to students, and over 1,500 provide breakfast programs as well,” said McMahon. “We can create a win-win situation by both providing students with additional healthy breakfast options and our local farmers with additional revenue.”