Serving more than one million students each year, the New York City Department of Education is the largest school district in the country. This district faces serious challenges when it comes to ensuring all students in the city get at least one or two hot meals every day, regardless of their income level. With a wide variety of services provided by the School Food division of the New York City Department of Education, students throughout the city get the nutrition they need all through the school year and beyond.
About NYC School Food Services
According to the NYC School Food website, this department serves around 850,000 meals to more than 1.1 million students in New York City every day. The department offers a free breakfast program to all students in the city, based on the philosophy that students that start their day with a nutritious meal perform better academically. The department also serves lunch and 1,700 schools across the city, including free lunches for many students that qualify.
According to the Human Resources Administration of the New York City government, qualification for free or reduced-price lunch is based on family income level. A family of five qualifies for the free lunch program if their monthly income is $2,927 or below. That same family of five can also qualify for a reduced-price lunch, where the student only has to pay 25 cents per meal, if their monthly income is $4,165 or lower.
In addition to meals served during school hours, NYC School Food offers snacks and weekend meals to students that require additional nutritional assistance. The program is available on an open basis in communities where at least half the children qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program. In communities where less than half the children qualify for this service, free weekend meals are available on an individual eligibility basis.
New Year, New Meal Plan
In accordance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, NYC School Food is providing a new school menu complete with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Schools will now be providing students with organic yogurt products, whole grain cereals, tofu and grilled chicken. The department is also committed to promoting the consumption of nutritious foods, by offering meals that are fresh and delicious.
In addition, NYC School Food is working to increase nutrition in all their meal plans, by reducing the amount of sodium, saturated fat and fat in food selections. At the same time, the department is working to increase fiber content through the introduction of more whole grain foods. The department is also reducing the amount of foods high in fructose corn syrup. Even the snacks sold a la carte and through school vending machines will now be of a healthier variety.
In addition to providing students with healthier fare, the department is also working to make their operations more environmentally friendly. NYC School Food has announced the introduction of Trayless Tuesdays this year, in which school meals will be served in biodegradable paper containers. Styrofoam trays will not be used any longer on that day of the week, and the department predicts that this simple act will keep 2.4 million Styrofoam trays out of New York landfills every single month.
NYC School Food, in cooperation with the New York City Department of Education, is also working to educate parents on the importance of healthy eating. There are numerous resources on the NY SED website under the Child Nutrition Knowledge Center, where parents can learn about recent statistics on childhood obesity and find plans and recipes for preparing healthy meals at home. Workshops are even available to teach parents and students the finer points of good health and nutrition.
Bringing Good Nutrition into the Summer Months
According to a press release at the New York City Department of Education website, the school nutrition program also provides meals to needy students throughout the summer months. The department is currently accepting applications from sponsors for the 2013 Summer Food Service Program. This program is available to public and non-public schools, as well as youth camps and other non-profit agencies that work with youth throughout the summer season.
Qualified sponsors will be able to provide free meals to youth over the summer months, when they are unable to get those meals in their home schools. Similar guidelines apply to this program as the weekend meals. Communities where more than 50 percent of students qualify for free lunches can offer an open program to all youth in the community, regardless of income level. In areas where less than 50 percent of the youth qualify for the free lunch program, sponsors may offer meals based on individual eligibility. Those sponsors will be responsible for maintaining a list of qualifying students and checking that list against the youth that come in for a meal.
Approved sponsors of the program will receive reimbursement for the meals they provide at the state and federal level. The program is available to children age 18 and younger, and will run between June 17 and September 2. The city plans to serve approximately 380,000 meals daily through their summer program. Training is provided to qualifying sponsors, who must agree not to discriminate against any student in the program based on race, national origin, sex, age or disability.
With more than a million children to serve, the New York City Department of Education has its work cut out for it in keeping these children fed with nutritious meals every day. With many programs in place to fulfill this duty, the department shows that good nutrition is a key component to a positive, productive learning environment.