District Moves to Universal Meal Program for 2016-17

  • students eating lunch

    The School District of University City is committed to removing all barriers that prevent children from learning and excelling in school—including hunger.

    Research has shown that when children are hungry they are less likely to do well in the classroom, perform as well on standardized tests or graduate from high school.  According to Children’s HealthWatch, food insecurity can damage a child’s health and brain development long before they enter a classroom. By kindergarten, food-insecure children often are cognitively, emotionally and physically behind their peers who are not hungry.

    “We know that our students need to be healthy to learn; when they are not eating, they are not healthy and that is a true barrier to learning and performance,” said Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley. “We’re working to remove that barrier.”

    Universal meal programs are gaining popularity across the country; advocates say the program reduces bullying, removes the social stigma attached to the free  and reduced lunch program, and increases the health and well-being of students.

     Launched as part of the federal government’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, districts that qualify under  the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)  are able to offer free meals to all students in the District.

    “Moving to the universal meal program is a positive move for the District in so many ways,” said Matt Buck, director of food and dining services. “We reduce paperwork and the inefficiencies of collecting lunch money and managing student accounts allowing us to focus on what’s important—providing a high-quality meal with excellent service to students and staff.”

    In addition to offering a universal meal program during the regular school year, the District will continue its participation in the summer food program sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture. During summer school students are provided with free breakfast and lunch. In addition, any student living near summer school locations in the District are encouraged to visit the building for breakfast and lunch at no cost.

    The District’s social workers also coordinate a food backpack program in our elementary schools during the school year. Students with identified need are sent home with a backpack full of healthy food items and snacks to help provide healthy meals over the weekend.

    “Children aren’t hungry just Monday-through Friday; some of our children and families need support just to make it through the weekend. We’re doing whatever it takes to help our students be healthy mentally and physically so they can do their very best in the classroom,” Superintendent Hardin said.

    Interested in a student’s perspective on universal lunch program? Click here.

    For Frequently Asked Questions regarding Universal Meal program, click here.