School Meals are Important: Here’s How you Can Help

Erin Wholey, RD, LDN| View Author Bio

What if one simple choice could benefit your family and others in your community? If you have children 18 years or under consider supporting your school’s meal program. And by “support” we mean have your kids participate in the program—no matter your income. Here’s why:

With one in four children projected to be food insecure due to COVID19, school meals are more important now than ever. Through the end of this school year, schools have the flexibility to offer free meals to any child 18 years or younger, regardless of income. These meals are available to students learning virtually and in-person through a variety of service models. When schools closed in March, School Nutrition Directors across New England worked tirelessly to ensure students continued to have access to school meals. Despite the best efforts from local school nutrition professionals, many districts are seeing dramatic decreases in participation, meaning students aren’t getting the healthy foods they need to be and do their best. When more students participate, school meal programs increase their government reimbursements and are better able to support students’ learning and growth through healthy meals.

As we kick off this new year, we know that many are focused on making healthier choices for themselves and their family.  Choosing school meals can make that easier while benefiting your family AND community.

Benefits to Your Family:

  • School meals are nutritious. Research shows that students who participate in school meals eat more milk, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. *
  • School meals are a convenient option that can help lower your grocery bill and reduce your time spent cooking.

Benefits to Your Community:

  • Schools only receive funding for each meal they serve. This funding must cover all their costs including food, labor, and sometimes utility and custodial fees. The higher the number of meals served, the better schools can:
    • Invest in the quality of their meals and increase access to meals through different service models.
    • Protect the jobs of school nutrition heroes who have been putting their lives on the line to feed kids since schools closed in March.
  • Participating in school meals, no matter your income, can help decrease the stigma that school meals are only for low-income students. This is still a real barrier for many communities and prevents some of the most vulnerable students from participating because they are worried about what others will think.

If you have a child under 18 years, you can feel good about nourishing your family and supporting your community by participating in school meals.  Below are some links to help you find free meals in your area.  We recommend checking with your local school district for menus, mealtimes, and service locations.

Find a Free Meal Site in Your Area:

  • Connecticut – CT Department of Education
  • Massachusetts – Child Nutrition Outreach Program
  • Rhode Island – RI Department of Health
  • Vermont – Hunger Free VT
  • New Hampshire – Check with your local school district

In addition to participating in school meals, you can help spread the word about free school meals and inform others about the benefits of participating. Please share information about your local school meal program or one of the state-wide websites above with friends and on social media. We thank you in advance for joining New England Dairy and the dairy farm families of New England as we #SupportSchoolMeals.

Read here to learn more about how community partnerships have been supporting school meal programs across New England.

* https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/npao/schoolmeals.htm

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