Free meals

Dear SGI Families and Staff Members, 

At last evening’s Board of Education meeting, the Board unanimously passed a resolution to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge for all students through June 2023.  These free meals will be available beginning Tuesday, January 17, 2023.

Why did we do this?

During the pandemic, the Federal Government gave subsidies to schools to offer breakfast and lunch to our students at no charge. This was an incredible help as it gave our families one less thing to worry about during an already chaotic time. At the end of June 2022, these subsidies expired and thus this year we returned to charging students for breakfast and lunch if families did not qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on household income. 

What do families need to do?

Families do not need to take any action in order to take advantage of one free breakfast and lunch per child. This initiative will begin on Tuesday, January 17, 2023. A second breakfast/lunch, snacks, and ala carte items will continue to be at an additional charge. If families have money in the MySchoolBucks app, that money can be used for second meals, snacks, and ala carte items and unused funds at year’s end will be automatically rolled over to the 2023-24 school year.

What supports this decision?

During the first four months of this school year, we collected data because our perception was fewer students were buying breakfast and lunch and a number of families didn’t qualify for free meals based on Federal standards. The data that we collected supported our perception. We saw a substantial drop in the number of students getting breakfast (down by 33%) and lunch (down by 25%).  This makes sense given that the threshold to qualify for free meals, $36,075 for a family of four, is substantially lower than the livable wage for that same family of four, $77,022.

The Federal government, seeing a similar trend nationwide, recently changed the law governing school lunch programs to allow schools to use excess funds in the school lunch program to subsidize lunches (prior to November 2022, the ability to use funds in this way was not an option).

How does the school lunch program have ‘excess funds’? 

In an effort to make lunches as affordable as possible, our school lunch program actually loses money on each purchased breakfast and lunch. In other words, the cost of the food and the overhead (salaries for our culinary workers who prepare the food, equipment costs, etc.) is more than what we charge students for each breakfast or lunch. However, the subsidy that we receive from the Federal government for each free and reduced meal exceeds the cost of the food and overhead mentioned above. Based on the subsidies that we received last year when all meals were free, our food service program has a surplus. This surplus is the money that we will use to provide meals at no charge for students for the remainder of the school year. If that money runs out, the Board has authorized the use of general fund balance to cover meal costs through June 2023. 

Why is this important?  

It stands to reason that if kids are well-fed with a nutritious breakfast and lunch, they will be better prepared to thrive each day both academically and socially. There is a substantial amount of research that indicates that the opposite is also true. Data from the Food Action and Research Center supports that behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues and poor academic performance are more prevalent among children and adolescents struggling with hunger. Children and adolescents experiencing hunger have lower math scores and poorer grades. Children experiencing hunger are more likely to be hyperactive, absent, and tardy, in addition to having behavioral and attention problems more often than other children. Teens experiencing hunger are more likely to have been suspended from school and have difficulty with peer relationships.

Is providing meals at no charge for all students sustainable? 

Unfortunately, no. We look at this measure as a means to provide relief to families for the remainder of this school year. However, if the Federal and/or State governments do not act to reinstate funding for meals for all students, we will need to revisit the need to charge for lunches in the 2023-2024 school year. In the meantime, we will continue to lobby for change that will support free or greatly reduced-price meals for all.

If you have any questions about the above information, please feel free to reach out to me at 716-592-3230 or

James Bialasik
Superintendent of Schools