Since the spring of 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made funding available for schools to provide free meals for all students. The federal child nutrition waivers first became available during COVID-19 school closures in the spring of 2020 and have been extended and made available through June 30, 2022. The extensions have allowed every Schuylerville student, regardless of free-and-reduced-price meal eligibility, to receive one free breakfast and one free lunch daily. A meal consists of an entree, fruit, vegetable, and milk. Students may decline certain components but have been required to take at least 1/2 cup fruit and/or vegetable with their meal (a USDA regulation nationwide.)
Federal waivers are set to expire at the end of June and access to free meals for all students will end at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. Advocacy efforts are underway across the state to establish and fund a permanent, statewide Healthy School Meals for All program, that would ensure students have access to a healthy breakfast and lunch each day.
While school districts are reaching out to NYS legislators and Governor Kathy Hochul to include the program in the 2023 state budget, parents and guardians are welcome to advocate as well. So far, more than 300 organizations and school districts have joined the New York School Nutrition Association to support continuing to provide free meals to students.
In addition, the U.S. Senate is currently negotiating a COVID-19 relief package that could include an extension of USDA’s authority to issue the child nutrition waivers in the federal budget if legislators hear from constituents who support the initiative becoming permanent.
If you are interested in the advocacy effort you can contact:
Schuylerville CSD Food Service Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-695-03255 ext. 2290
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner
email@example.com or 518-455-5404
New York School Nutrition Association
firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-446-9061
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand