Among the local school districts offering free breakfast and lunch to all students for the 2021-22 school year are Kingston, Saugerties, New Paltz and Onteora. The districts all filed applications with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in July to extend their meal service flexibility through June 30, 2022.
“USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a USDA press release announcing the extension on April 20. “States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall. USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines. This action also increases the reimbursement rate to school meal operators so they can serve healthy foods to our kids. It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”
Superintendents in the Kingston City School District, Saugerties Central School District, New Paltz Central School District, and Onteora Central School District confirmed their participation in the USDA program, enabling all students to receive a free breakfast and lunch.
“On behalf of the district, I am pleased to announce that we filed the required application in July to be able to continue to offer free breakfast and lunch to all Onteora students through the 2021-22 school year,” said OCSD Superintendent Marystephanie Corsones.
Kingston Superintendent Paul Padalino said his district’s students are primarily taking advantage of lunch, though he hopes breakfast will follow suit this year.
“Lunch numbers are really good,” Padalino said. “Most of our students are taking advantage of the lunches.”
Padalino added that his district’s new Food Service Manager Dave Dunn was looking into ways of encouraging greater participation in the free breakfast program.
In the event of a return to remote learning, districts will offer the same meals in a grab-and-go format.
The extension follows the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option and encourages districts to offer meals high in nutrition, including fruits and vegetables, fluid milk, whole grains, and “sensible calorie levels” for free to all children. Districts will receive a “higher-than-normal” meal reimbursement to help manage increased costs associated with operational and supply chain challenges brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.