News stories

Federal cuts tough to swallow

CookShop Classroom for Elementary Schools funding axed, CTE programs at risk

Teachers who attended a training in the fall to train for the Food Bank/UFT Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities initiative — like Bronx teachers Flora Castellanos (left) of PS 18 and Marisa Bichler of PS 119, getting help from CookShop instructor Erika Tribett (right) — will have to abandon their hands-on lessons for this spring.

There will be no more grocery deliveries to the 1,300 elementary classrooms citywide where 31,000 students and their parents have been learning about good nutrition and healthy food choices.

Food Bank for New York City has notified schools that federal funding for the popular CookShop Classroom for Elementary Schools has been slashed — effective immediately. New York State’s current-year allocation for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, which provides funding for CookShop, has been reduced by 40 percent. Unless  the Food Bank receives a fair share of the reduced allocation, they will be forced to cancel all lessons for the remainder of the year.

UFT Vice President Karen Alford called the cuts devastating.

“Ending this groundbreaking program that benefits so many children and their families undermines our efforts to teach healthy eating practices as well as to bring childhood obesity and its related health problems under control,” Alford said.

Recently proposed federal legislation would also eliminate federal funding for the Perkins Tech Prep Program for the 2011-2012 school year and make drastic cuts across other education and work force development programs. This bill is separate from the president’s budget proposal which calls for consolidation of Tech Prep programs into Basic Education Grants and a $264 million cut in the funding of the 1998 Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, an act whose purpose is to integrate high school students’ academic and vocational skills.

UFT Vice President for Career and Technical Education High Schools Sterling Roberson’s reaction was swift: “How can you teach carpentry if you can’t afford to buy wood?”

Noting that preparing students for the technological jobs of the future requires investment, he asked, “How do we insulate students who did not put us in this critical economic situation from these drastic cuts that threaten their job prospects for the future?”

While both federal funding cuts will adversely affect city public school students, the Food Bank cut takes immediate effect. The more than 1,500 teachers who attended a training in the fall for the CookShop program will have to abandon their hands-on lessons for this spring, including 12 Bronx schools participating in the UFT’s Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities initiative.

The UFT responded immediately to the cut with letters to first lady Michelle Obama, members of Congress and Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailing the extent and value of CookShop and pointing out, “With the Food Bank for New York City estimating that 40 percent of New York City public school children in grades K-8 are overweight or obese, it is vital that these programs are able to continue.”

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