Beyond ‘Free School Lunch for All’

(Photo via NYC Schools/Flickr)

An additional 200,000 public students became eligible for free lunch when the city announced in early September the Free School Lunch for All program. More than 70 percent of the student population, or some 780,000, already qualified. City officials, however, do not anticipate “a sudden spike in students eating school lunches,” writes Alex Zimmerman in Chalkbeat.

A DOE spokesperson projected a 3.4 percent increase in the number of additional students receiving lunch every day, which amounts to 29,000 students, much lower than the figure of 120,000 additional lunches anticipated in a 2014 Community Food Advocates study. The organization’s executive director, Liz Accles, says that “the city should work to aggressively to make sure parents know it’s free and convince students to participate.”

“The policy change is most important, but what’s the messaging to students and families?” Accles said. “I think there should be a bigger jump than 3 percent if there’s a real effort to publicize.”

Meanwhile, at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Forest Hills, Queens, Principal Damon McCord tells Chalkbeat about one concern he has that stems from the new program – it “could make it more difficult to qualify for federal Title I funding that flows to schools with higher shares of students who qualify for subsidized lunch.” He worries that with the lunch fee no longer an issue, parents might not fill out income forms that help schools receive additional federal funding.

“There’s a lot that a school can do with that money,” McCord said. “It’s a feast-or-famine system that’s in dire need of reform.”

Go to Chalkbeat for more details on the new program and why at one school “students reacted with indifference when they were told about the new policy.”

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