March 15, 2001
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

(New York, NY) – Every day school cafeterias in New York State serve nearly 2 million breakfasts and lunches. Although school lunch managers run some of the most efficient food service operations around there are often times when there is excess food leftover. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) has introduced a bill (A. 4089) to create a program that would help schools to donate edible, unused food to the thousands of food pantries and soup kitchens around the State.

"Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are seeking food every month at volunteer-run emergency food programs. These programs rely on food donated by businesses and individuals through food drives and other activities. However, most programs are constantly struggling to keep an adequate supply of nutritious foods on hand," stated Ortiz.

A recent trend has been the donation of food from food service facilities such as restaurants, corporate lunchrooms, fundraisers, airlines and other sources. These donors have greatly expanded the quality and variety of foods available to hungry families.

"We need to encourage these efforts whenever possible. One potential source of nutritious food is our school meal programs," said Ortiz.

The Assembly bill would have the Commissioner of the State Education Department, the agency responsible for overseeing school meal programs, and the Commissioner of Health, responsible for funding emergency food programs, develop a program to enable schools to donate excess, edible food to voluntary feeding programs. The schools would continue to follow federal and State rules designed to minimize food waste and the Health Department would assure that all appropriate food safety guidelines are met.

According to Ortiz, "As Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy I will continue the Assembly’s successful efforts to increase spending to reduce hunger. Over the last two years we have added $30 million to the State budget for feeding hungry mothers, children, families and seniors. In addition I will work to find alternative sources of assistance and food for the hardworking volunteer programs run by our churches and other community organizations. When schools experience bad weather or high absenteeism or other unforeseen circumstances that result in unused food, we can and should provide leftover food to the non-governmental food assistance network. I believe my bill will do just that."

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