Children impacted by government shutdown qualify for New York free school meals program

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(WBNG) — Families of federal employees impacted by the government shutdown now qualify for free school meal programs, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

In a news release, Cuomo called on the State Department of Education to direct school districts to notify federal employees that their children now qualify and can apply for the free or reduced price lunch program.

The Governor says this applies to children of federal employees as well as children who rely on federal benefits that may be delayed by the government shutdown.

Mark Bordeau, the senior director of food services at Broome-Tioga BOCES, says it oversees the programs at all 15 districts. He says before this call to action, more than 50 percent of children in our area qualified for the program.

“For many families they rely on us for two meals a day and in some cases it’s two to three meals a day plus an afternoon snack each and every day, so it’s a very important part of a healthy child’s diet and healthy activity,” said Bordeau.

He says he’s been in contact with every school district and many say they’re working on notifying families who qualify. He says a notification will come via phone call, school messaging system or mail.

Bordeau says they’re not sure how many more students will be added to the program, but they will be ready to serve anyone who needs assistance.

“We’re an entitlement program, so as long as the need is there we always meet the needs and the funds will come,” he said.

The USDA has informed Child Nutrition Offices that the free school lunch and breakfast program has state funding through the end of March, however Bordeau says if the shutdown continues after that, the cost will go to the local level.

“We’ve been told by [New York State Education Department] we will still provide those meals, and once the government opens back up we will be retroactively paid back for those meals,” he said.

Broome-Tioga BOCES has posted a link to more information on how to sign up for the program on its Facebook page here.  

Jackie Prager

Jackie Prager

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