Yonkers parents have one more reason to be happy about back-to-school season: This year, all public school children regardless of their families income will have free access to healthy breakfasts and lunches thanks to the district’s secured status of a Community Eligibility Provision.
Breakfast will be available every morning in school cafeterias prior to the beginning of the school day, and lunch throughout the day as usual. “Breakfast After the Bell” grab-and-go kiosks will also be available for students who arrive later in the day, ensuring everyone has access to healthy food to start their day. All food choices meet USDA and New York State nutritional requirements, and students will be permitted to eat their breakfasts during instruction time.
“One of the most important ways the Board of Education helps to ensure that our children achieve more in their classes is by providing them with nutritious foods,” says Yonkers Board of Education President Rev. Steve Lopez.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin M. Quezada goes farther, saying, “The daily availability to a healthy wholesome breakfast and lunch for every student has a significant positive impact on children’s academic, social/emotional, and physical development.”
Yonkers Public Schools have run a similar summer program offering free breakfast and hot lunch to children in the community 18 and under. Typical breakfasts across grade levels will include cereal, muffins, and bagels with cream cheese, plus choice of juice, fresh fruit, or fruit cup, and low-fat or fat-free milk. Lunches will include standards like grilled burgers on pretzel buns with fries, turkey tacos with chips and salsa, pizza with steamed broccoli, turkey sandwiches with carrots, chef’s salad with chips, and more, all served with fruit and milk. (Yes, the same meals as previous years. There will be no change to the menus.)
All students will receive the same food — no ‘more affordable’ options, no ‘reduced cost’ pricing, the exact same meals — thanks to the new designation from the New York State Education Department. The news comes as a huge boon to the district, which has come under scrutiny for more than $1.5 million in unpaid school breakfasts and lunches in the last two years.
“A high enough percentage of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch that we can provide it to everyone, whether they fall under the poverty level or not,” says Yonkers Public Schools Communications Officer Jerilynn Fierstein. “It takes a little bit more to work it out with the state, but we’re happy to do it.”