SFUSD: ‘Free meals for all’

ALL the children returning to the public schools of San Francisco will be well fed all year. – Photo: DistrictAdministration.com

by Bay View Education Reporter Daphne Young

When students return to school this fall, the San Francisco Unified School District is offering FREE MEALS to all pre-K-12 students throughout the 2021-22 school year.

In previous years, meals through SFUSD were offered based on family income. But, this year, due to the pandemic, things have changed. Hopefully, for the greater good.

Now, ALL SFUSD students will receive free meals during the entire school year thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which created the Nationwide Waiver to Allow the Seamless Summer Option through School Year 2021-2022. This waiver is meant to support students access to nutritious meals by offering students breakfast, lunch, snacks and supper meals, while minimizing potential exposure to the COVID-19.

After a year at home for many students whose households face food challenges, it’s probably a relief to both students and parents alike to know that free meals will be available to ALL students for the 2021-2022 school year. Thanks to SFUSD for opting in to this FREE MEAL program during a pandemic and to California for being the first state to do so.

“I’m thrilled that California made history as the first state to adopt free Universal School Meals – an initiative that extends the support of providing free school meals for all students regardless of their family income or application status,” said SF Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez. “When schools are in-person, we serve 7.5 million meals per year to 54,000 students at 136 schools across the City,” said Lopez.

“I’m thrilled that California made history as the first state to adopt free Universal School Meals – an initiative that extends the support of providing free school meals for all students regardless of their family income or application status,” said SF Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez.

SFUSD is the seventh largest school district in California and educates over 56,000 pre-K-12 students every year. SFUSD is also the largest meal provider in San Francisco and since the start of the pandemic, SFUSD has offered nourishing meals including breakfast, lunch, snacks and supper to San Francisco families in need.

“I want to thank our staff and volunteers for their dedication and hard work,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “We know that students learn better when they have access to healthy meals,” added Dr. Matthews. “SFUSD’s Student Nutrition Services staff have done an incredible job, serving over 7.3 million meals at dozens of schools during the pandemic.” In fact, the Gordon J. Lau Elementary School was the site that served the most Grab & Go meals since the Grab & Go service began.

But, the district’s Grab & Go meals program ended on July 29 so staff could begin preparing for in-person learning that’s set to resume for all students at SFUSD schools on Aug. 16.

Now SFUSD will offer free meals to all students this coming school year in an effort to ensure all children receive healthy and nutritious meals in San Francisco, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

School lunch today is delicious, nutritious – and exciting and fun! – Photo: US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

So, parents, here’s what you can do to ensure that your child’s breakfast, lunch and snack meal services go smoothly and all students get counted:

  1. Complete your Emergency Contact Card so your child’s school can get in touch with you in the event of an emergency. Visit sfusd.edu/EmergencyCard for more information.
  2. Fill out the Multipurpose Family Income Form (MFIF) to secure essential funding for your school. Apply at SchoolCafe.com, and visit sfusd.edu/MFIF for more information.
  3. Complete the Student Family Handbook Acknowledgement Form. Fill out the Google Form to indicate whether you prefer a digital or paper copy of the Handbook. You can also call the Student Family and School Resource Link at 415-340-1716 for assistance.
  4. Update your contact information on ParentVUE to receive phone, email and text notifications from your school and SFUSD. Visit sfusd.edu/ParentVUE for more information and to access tutorials.

Keep in mind that SFUSD says no student will be turned away during any school meal service, regardless of whether or not their paperwork or forms are completed. But, parents should know that when you update your students’ info, it helps SFUSD ensure federal funds for the district’s food program and gets more students fed.

Meanwhile, we all know that kids are finicky eaters and so we are compelled to go straight to the source. SF Bay View plans to check in with students and the SFUSD Student Nutrition staff to find out how the free meal program is going throughout the school year. So, stay tuned for a follow-up on this story in the coming months.

And parents, be sure to let us know what you think. Does this food program help your family? Did your family participate in the Grab & Go meals program last year or over the summer? Or, do you disagree with the free meal program? Tell us why? Contact me at education@sfbayview.com.

SFUSD forms and links

https://www.sfusd.edu/services/health-wellness/nutrition-school-meals/apply

https://www.sfusd.edu/services/family-supports-services/family-school-communications/family-portal-parentvue/emergency-card

https://www.schoolcafe.com/

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfwkk6tt5vtQaCbeFX-gthTH3-BjelrVj17dlyPNobW3MaBUA/viewform

https://www.sfusd.edu/services/family-supports-services/family-school-communications/family-portal-parentvue

https://www.sfusd.edu/services/health-wellness/nutrition-school-meals

https://www.fns.usda.gov/pl-116-127

https://www.fns.usda.gov/cn/child-nutrition-response-85

https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/cnpcovid19guidance.asp

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r1JxGy5Ei68zAAHaq6PX0cR6a96eXcDx/view

Daphne Young is the SF Bay View Education Reporter. She’s an award-winning reporter who’s worked in radio and television from coast to coast (Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas and now San Francisco). The Chicago native began her journalism career as an intern at the Chicago Daily Defender newspaper. Daphne has received honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the New Jersey Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Inc., and the New York Association of Black Journalists. Daphne attended San Francisco State University and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Daphne also previously worked for SFUSD as a Para Educator for Special Education students at Clarendon Alternative Elementary School. Contact her at education@sfbayview.com.