Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) announced her appointment as Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy.
“The appointment provides me a platform to support North Country food consumers and producers and tackle barriers to strengthening our families and communities,” Russell said.
Russell said she looks forward to getting to work, focusing on the state’s school lunch reimbursement formula, which hasn't been updated in 40 years, reducing the number of people who go hungry in New York, and supporting farmers.
“We need to open up the dialogue on school meals programs and look for solutions to help more families who are in need gain access,” Russell continued. “Children simply cannot be expected to learn if they are hungry all day, every day.”
Low meal reimbursement rates put districts in a difficult position as they are forced to come up with money to support the cafeterias from elsewhere. Moreover, low rates and shifts in federal regulations have made it difficult for schools to realistically engage in farm-to-school programs.
In the 2015 agriculture budget proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last month a $250,000 pool of grant money is on the table to help stimulate farm-to-school initiatives. But Russell said further action is needed, such as incentivizing farm-to-school programs in state reimbursements.
With poverty rates for children under 18 hovering at 21 percent across the state, higher in the North Country, Russell said she’s excited by the opportunity to provide good food to underprivileged people while stimulating the state’s strong agricultural industry.