June 26, 2001
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203
Assembly Passes Bill to Encourage Schools to Help the Hungry

Assemblyman Calls on Senate to Support Food Donation Program

(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. A bill (A.4089-a/S.4854-a) sponsored by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, 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 has been approved by the New York State Assembly. Mr. Ortiz was joined by John Krakowski, City Harvest's, the food rescue organization, Director of Policy and Community Affairs at a press conference today to push for State Senate approval.

"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. My bill would expand the supply of donated food and help schools find a good use for food that would end up in a landfill. I urge the State Senate to act quickly on this measure," 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, especially nutritious foods from our school meal programs," said Ortiz.

The bill would have the Commissioner of the State Education Department, the agency responsible for overseeing school meal programs, and the Commissioner of Health, the agency interacting with emergency food programs, develop a program to assist schools that want 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 hard working 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."

Earlier this year it was reported that large garbage bags filled with unopened, unserved food were being thrown out by NYC schools. Several schools have worked out an arrangement to salvage this food through the food rescue organization City Harvest, but the number of schools and amount of food collected so far is limited and City Harvest and Ortiz hope to see an increase if his bill is signed into law.

"We need to get this program up and running before school starts next fall. I urge the Senate to act on their bill as soon as possible," said Ortiz. The Senate bill is in the Education Committee.

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