NYC SchoolFood 101

Understand the largest school system in this country and become an advocate for your child.

  1. Understand the system: The NYC Department of Education’s Office of Food & Nutrition Services (formally SchoolFood) is dedicated to feeding students, and their staff is available to help you meet the needs of your school and your children. To collaborate effectively, you must understand your local system and key players as well as school lunch federal regulations.
  2. Eat with your kid(s): You may be pleasantly surprised! Or at the very least, you will have a better understanding of the eating and nutrition goals you should set for your child(ren). Review your child(ren)’s school menus regularly. You can compare DOE menus here
  3. Join or form a Wellness Committee and create a Wellness Policy: It takes active participation from your school staff and administration, parents, and school food staff to form an excellent lunch program. Start with your principal, who can serve as a liaison. Form a Wellness Committee to gather stakeholders and determine a Wellness Policy and collective goals. Goals may include: 
    • Eliminating chocolate milk: Ask your principal to write a letter to your SchoolFood Manager requesting the elimination of chocolate milk.  Keep in mind that although many children will complain at first, they will soon forget especially when given other options like a Water Jet.
    • Requesting a Water Jet: Introduced by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Water Jet program gives children access to a healthful, no-calorie beverage: clean NYC tap water.  The Water Jet chills the water and oxygenates it to keep it tasting fresh. You can request a Water Jet from your SchoolFood Manager.  You may have to fundraise to purchase the machine, but once purchased ($720-$950), children can drink cold NYC tap water – the best in the nation.  You must have access to an electrical outlet and be prepared to put a plan in place for cup protocol and etiquette.
    • Serving a salad bar and preparing tastings: Request a salad bar from your SchoolFood Manager.  The federal stimulus package provided some funding for 30-inch salad bars (also referred to as low boys), which are easily accessible by younger children and recommended for elementary schools. Your cafeteria will need an electrical outlet (and sometimes an electrical upgrade) to run the cooling mechanisms on the salad bar. Once you have your salad bar in place, organize parents to help serve and encourage children to try the salad bar. Tasting events are an effective way to promote the healthy meal options. Work with your school’s administration and SchoolFood staff to set one up.
    • Creating a school garden: Start small and “grow” from there! School gardens can be located in small or large spaces: a container garden in a classroom, raised beds on school grounds, or form in partnership with a community garden. Organize a school garden committee as an extension of your PTA or Wellness Committee and assign each member a role and responsibilites. Be sure to include your principal, assistant principal, head custodial engineer, two co-coordinators, and at least two teachers. Check out Grow to Learn NYC for more ideas.
  4. Donate Equipment: In order to donate equipment, the organization must write a letter on official letterhead, to The Office of SchoolFood, 44-36 Vernon Blvd., Room 414E, Long Island City, NY 11101. The letter should state: the funding source, the fact that the equipment is a non-monetary gift, the amount of the donation (value of the equipment), the school that will receive the equipment, and the purpose of the donation (how the equipment will be used). Wait for acknowledgment: When the donating organization receives an acknowledgment that SchoolFood has received their donation letter, the organization can purchase the item and make the donation to the school. Please note that once the equipment is delivered to the school, the equipment is considered SchoolFood property.  At this time, the new equipment will be given a place and inventory control tag.