Could NYS Enact a Universal Schools Meals Program?
By: Eva Mandelbaum
As of January 12, 2022, the New York State Educational Conference Board (a group of seven statewide educational organizations), initiated an attempt to launch a statewide universal school meals program. Many New York school districts do have current free meal plans, but most of them will expire by the end of the school year because federal provisions are set to expire on June 30. If successful, this ECB program will provide free meals for all students going forward farther into the future. It would be life changing for many New York students.
White Plains City School District Director of Food Services Ms. McGinn shared her thoughts on the subject. “Food, hunger, wondering if there will be something to eat today, should NEVER be a worry for a child at any age – or for families of school age children,” said McGinn. “School meals are in place to help with food insecurity, as well as provide proper nutrition, helping to reduce childhood obesity and to lessen the burden on families, to provide breakfast and lunch meals for school-age children, especially today with rising food prices.”
The NYSECB shares these same beliefs. According to the official New York State Educational Conference Board’s Universal NYS School Meals Program launch paper, students need proper nourishment to be successful.
According to nyssba.org, the ECB’s main goals are to expand the reach of current state and federal school meal programs, in addition to reducing costs for school districts as part of the universal approach.
“[The meal plan is] so all students can perform at their very best while in the classroom or on the playing field; but also to remove any stigma about needing to eat school meals due to family income restraints or other family related challenges,” Ms. McGinn said. “Today, and in the future with Universal Free School Meals, all families can benefit knowing their children are receiving free, healthy and nutritious meals, while school is in session.”
Food is a key part of being a successful student: having the proper nutrition and energy from food can give students the ability to excel in school. Thanks to grants, many school districts (including WPHS), have offered all students free access to healthy and nutritious meals.
Unfortunately, many school districts’ free meal plans are expiring this year. These allowances expire on June 30, 2022. Without continuance of a free school meals program for all, school districts will no longer be able to ensure that every student has access to healthy nutritious meals. This is why action is necessary.
The ECB has a series of proposals for lawmakers: they recommend helping meal providers keep up with the rising cost of food, improve linkages among after-school meal providers, and provide more flexibility in purchasing practices and meal delivery locations when districts face supply chain delays and limits on school cafeteria capacity.
Adoption of these recommendations will undoubtedly benefit White Plains High School and all New York students. And regardless of your socioeconomic background, these new adoptions can directly impact you too. According to Ms. McGinn, “The more WPHS that participate in the Universal Free School Meals program, the stronger our program will become for all students. The revenue that is received from the State and Federal government, in the form of meal reimbursements, will fund the School meals program allowing us to: make improvements to our Cafeterias and Kitchens; improve our menu offerings allowing Students a voice in menu choice; allow us to expand our farm to school initiatives; participate in a NY State local purchasing program; Students will have the fuel they need to succeed in the classroom and on the courts – food and nutrition play a BIG role in academic and athletic success.” The Initiative Statewide Universal Meal Program for Students is imperative for a healthier and happier White Plains High School community, which is why it’s crucial that action is taken by federal lawmakers to prevent the expiration of this program.
Despite the threat of the expiration of the meal program, all students are still entitled to one free breakfast and one free lunch each day throughout the rest of the school year. “There is ALWAYS something for everyone. And if any students disagree, they should contact me,” Ms. McGinn emphasizes.
Any questions or suggestions? Reach out to the Director of Food Services herself! Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and her phone number is 914-422-2054.