ALBANY, NY Jan. 6, 2014 - New York State United Teachers Vice President Kathleen Donahue - who spent more than 30 years in the classroom as an elementary and secondary teacher - has been appointed to Gov. Cuomo's newly established anti-hunger task force.
Donahue, a past president of the Hilton Teachers Association who was elected a NYSUT vice president in 2005, oversees the statewide union's Program Services arm, which includes the monitoring of workplace safety and health-care trends. She also promotes the union's "24/7 Let's Go!" program, which encourages children statewide to lead healthy lifestyles by educating them about nutrition and exercise. Used by schools and health providers, the program has been endorsed by the American Cancer Society.
"Teachers and school professionals on a daily basis see, firsthand, the impact that poverty and hunger have on our children, and without question, there is a clear and distinct correlation between those issues and our students' readiness and ability to learn," said Donahue. "NYSUT has been a leader in the fight to level the playing field for students in high-needs districts, and the union is eager to join the governor's effort in combating these serious problems."
According to the governor's office, the New York State Anti-Hunger Task Force will bring together experts, advocates and state and local officials who will develop and implement recommendations to fight hunger and improve access to locally grown fresh foods. The panel will also be charged with increasing participation in federally funded programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and using public-private partnerships to increase outreach to those in need.
New York state ranks fourth nationwide in the number of people living at, or below, the poverty line - which is defined by the federal government as living in a household with an annual income of $23,283 or less for a family of four. Among New York state's poor are 959,000 children, age 18 or younger. Ten percent of those children are living in "extreme" poverty, which is defined as having an annual family income below $11,641 - less than half the amount of the federal poverty level.
A recent study by the New York State Community Action Association found that 86 percent of the children in the Rochester City School District qualify for free or reduced lunch. The agency also reported that 50 percent of children under the age of 18 in the city, totaling 25,505, live in poverty.
In a report released last month by the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the group found that Rochester was the fifth poorest city in the nation among the 75 largest metro areas. The foundation also determined that Rochester had the third-highest concentration of poverty among the country's top 100 metro areas.
"All children, no matter their socioeconomic status, deserve an equal opportunity to succeed," said Donahue. "At a time when standards are being raised in our classrooms, it is incumbent upon the state to focus, not only on the academic challenges faced by our students, but the social challenges as well. The state's anti-hunger task force aims to do just that, and as NYSUT's representative, I look forward to continuing the union's work in combating the poverty and hunger that afflicts too many of our communities."
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members. Members are pre-K-12 teachers; school-related professionals; higher education faculty; other professionals in education, human services and health care; and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
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