NYC schools offer free meals to all middle school students

The district is using the Community Eligibility Provision to provide free meal regardless of income, but some principals find it hard to get forms turned in for federal funds.

NEW YORK — Every year, teachers must cajole students into submitting family-income forms, which entitle needy students to subsidized lunches and many schools to federal funds.

This fall, that annual rite could become much harder for some schools. Because the city will for the first time offer free lunch to all middle-school students, the children will receive meals regardless of whether they turn in the forms—but schools could lose out on tens of thousands of dollars if they don’t.

The education department warned principals of this possibility in a memo Tuesday, which noted that completion of the household-income forms is tied to Title I grants, which help schools with disadvantaged students pay for extra teachers, computers, tutoring, and other extra services.
“Students will receive free lunch whether or not their families have completed the form, but your school might receive less funding or lose Title I eligibility altogether if very few parents complete the form,” the memo said. “In addition, the success and possible expansion of the meals program will rely on the ability of schools to collect these forms from parents.”

The message: Figure out how to get those forms completed, even if they no longer come with a clear incentive for parents.

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