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Food Service Provides More Than 1 Million Free Meals

The Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Food Service program is pleased to announce that it served more than 1 million free meals in 2020. A total of 1,065,043 meals were provided, free of charge, for children 18 years of age and under in participating school districts, during the 2020 calendar year.

The OHM BOCES School Food Service program provides appealing, nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free breakfast and lunch programs to 15 participating school districts as well as OHM BOCES Middle Settlement Academy and Bridges, including management of the entire shared food service program. Specific functions of the program include hiring, training, supervision of staff, menu development, purchasing, management and preparation of food. The program’s registered dietitian also provides virtual cooking classes, nutrition education, and a Farm to School program that offers many local and New York state products as part of in-person and remote school meals.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 11 million children in the U.S. live in "food insecure" homes. That number dates from before the coronavirus pandemic. Today, projections from Feeding America show that an estimated 17 million children could go without enough to eat this year. Now more than ever, school meals are essential to making sure that children have access to nutritionally balanced meals each day.

In addition to the obvious benefit of providing children with a well-balanced diet to fuel their learning and growing minds and bodies, school meal programs also educate children about good nutrition, introduce new foods and flavors, lower families’ grocery costs, decrease obesity rates and instill lifelong healthy habits.

“I am incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication of our school nutrition team,” said Kate Dorr, Registered Dietitian and Food Service Director at the OHM BOCES. “Since school buildings closed last March, they’ve gone above and beyond to make sure our community’s children have access to meals. Not only do school meals relieve a huge financial burden on families, they help students to still feel connected to school while learning from home.”

School districts in the OHM BOCES Food Service program will continue distributing FREE meals to all children through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Meals are available for all children 18 years of age and under in each district, regardless of free/reduced/paid lunch status. The free meals are being made available to all children through the extension of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO).

“The more students a school serves meals to, the more reimbursement the school receives to keep their breakfast and lunch programs running,” said Dorr. “We want to make sure we are serving as many meals as possible to ensure the health of our community’s children and hopefully, be able to continue programs like this in the future!”

For additional information about the free school meal program, parents/guardians should contact the food service program in their child’s school district or OHM BOCES Assistant Food Service Director Jake Perrin at jperrin@oneida-boces.org.

The Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Food Service Program serves the following school districts: Brookfield, Clinton, Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Mount Markham, New Hartford, New York Mills, Oriskany, Owen D. Young, Poland, Remsen, Richfield Springs, Sauquoit Valley, Waterville and Westmoreland.