School’s out for the summer, but it is more crucial than ever that children are provided the food they need to stay healthy, especially those who rely on the meals provided at school.
New York State agrees: The State Education Department (SED) issued a memo to school districts and BOCES outlining the responsibility of school districts with regard to feeding children. The memo refers to Executive Order 202.28, which states that districts must continue plans for the distribution and availability of meals, and childcare, with an emphasis on serving children of essential workers.
The memo further explains that districts must work with their communities and local organizations to address the needs of all children in their community and, particularly, low-income children. Organizations such as food banks, food pantries, the Red Cross, and Island Harvest can be pivotal partners in a district’s efforts to distribute food to children should the district be unable to provide the meals itself. However, districts need to remain cognizant of the distance students would need to travel to access these options as the memo states that the distance families must travel to access these options should be minimized. Further, districts can work with organizations to institute meal pick-up and delivery options.
Links to information about regional food banks and emergency relief organizations are listed in the memo. While communities and organizations can help provide meals to children, districts are responsible for ensuring food is available. If there is a lack of access to food for children in the community, the district must step in to fill this need.
Even if a district is not running a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), it is responsible for ensuring information regarding meal accessibility is provided in ways ensured to reach families in need in their identified preferred language. Districts must cooperate with SFSP sponsors to distribute materials and provide outreach to inform families of the availability and location of free SFSP meals.
So much has changed this year. Children, and all of us, have gone through a lot in an effort to deal with the pandemic. Districts and communities have done a terrific job adapting to the new normal. Let’s keep up the great work!
If your district is not able to provide access to meals for your free and reduced price lunch population for any reason, and there is no other access to meals available, notify the State Education Department at CNCOVID@nysed.gov.