The following letter was sent to PK-12 parents on Wednesday, November 22, 2023 via ParentSquare. (Parents with the Digest setting in ParentSquare will receive the letter at approximately 6:00 p.m.)
We are pleased to announce that all students enrolled at Donald P. Sutherland Elementary School, Red Mill Elementary School, Howard L. Goff Middle School and the Questar III Sackett Center will be able to receive free breakfast and lunch meals at school beginning on December 1, 2023.
This change is a result of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) expanding access to the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and increased funding from New York State. CEP allows eligible schools participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to offer school meals at no charge based on the percentage of students directly certified for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or Medicaid.
The East Greenbush CSD Food Services Department submitted a CEP application earlier this month for those schools, and it was approved by the NYS Education Department. The approval of free meals is in effect through the 2027-28 school year. Thus, students from elementary schools which are currently not eligible who transition to Goff Middle School within the next few years will also benefit.
At this time, unfortunately, the CEP provision does not apply to students at Bell Top, Genet, Green Meadow or Columbia as currently these schools do not meet the federal eligibility requirements. While we realize this is not a perfect situation, as students in some schools will receive free meals and others will not, any assistance benefits our students and families. By taking advantage of this USDA program, approximately 40% of East Greenbush CSD students will be able to receive free school meals. This will have a positive and real impact on those families.
In the meantime, the Food Services Department will continue to review the data to determine eligibility for potential future expansion at Bell Top, Genet, Green Meadow and Columbia. The Board of Education and district administrators will also explore ways to potentially expand the number of schools provided with free meals through the budget development process for next school year. Importantly, the district’s Advocacy Committee, led by Superintendent Jeff Simons, will continue to advocate for free meals for all schools to our elected representatives in the New York State legislature.
No further action is required for students enrolled at DPS, Red Mill, Goff or the Sackett Center. Students who currently have a balance in their MySchoolBucks account can leave the funds in place and use it to pay for additional a la carte items such as snacks. Refund requests can also be made by emailing the Food Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any further questions, please contact Colleen Wise at email@example.com or 518-207-2474.
FAQ: USDA Changes to School Meal Program
Q: What schools will begin receiving free meals through the USDA?
A: DPS, Red Mill, Goff and Questar III Sackett Center which serves East Greenbush students.
Q: When does this take effect?
A: December 1, 2023.
Q: Why aren’t our other schools going to receive free meals?
A: Only DPS, Red Mill, Goff and the Sackett Center qualified for free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision through the USDA. However, data will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and schools can reapply during the annual application period.
Q: What is the Community Eligibility Provision?
A: The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a simplified meal service option that allows schools to provide meals at no cost to all students without requiring families to apply for free and reduced-price meals. Instead, school districts receive federal funding based on a formula using existing data from SNAP and other programs, and local or state funds must fill any gap between program costs and federal support.
Q: How did DPS, Red Mill, Goff and the Sackett Center become eligible for free meals?
A: Prior to this fall, at least 40% of students enrolled in the schools were required to reside in households participating in available income-based federal assistance programs, in order for the school, group of schools, or school district to be eligible for CEP. This final rule lowered that threshold from 40% to 25% and made DPS, Red Mill, Goff and the Sackett Center eligible as a group of schools.
Q: Can individual families still apply for free and reduced price meals?
A: Yes. Any family from any school can apply for free and reduced price meals. To qualify, families must meet the income eligibility requirements.