Superintendent’s update from 4/14

For a pdf version of the ARPS Update, please click here.

Para obtener una versión de la actualización de ARPS en español, haga clic aquí

Para uma versão do ARPS Update em português, clique aqui.

Students across the country have benefited tremendously from the waivers Congress passed allowing universal access to free breakfast and lunch during the pandemic.  For families who found themselves facing loss of income, jobs or businesses due to COVID restrictions, the free-meals-for-all program has given them peace of mind knowing that their children have access to nutritious food during the school day.  Many ARPS families have shared with us how essential the universal free meals program has been in allowing them to stretch their income during difficult financial circumstances.  Unfortunately, Congress will no longer support the free meals program after this school year. 

Statistics from our own School Nutrition Department are striking.  Since 2019, prior to the free-meals-for-all program, the average number of meals served per day has increased from 1,454 in 2019 to 1,893 in 2022. That represents an increase of 267 lunches per day and 172 breakfasts.  Our Districts have provided over 47,000 more meals to students so far this school year than we did at this time in the 2019/20 school year.  Additionally, 33% of our students currently qualify for free lunch based on the prior free/reduced lunch formula, which is up from 29% in 2019. 

This increase in the number of meals served is not simply a reflection of the increased financial need in our schools, however.  Enrollment in the traditional free/reduced lunch program drops off significantly as students move from elementary into secondary school.  This is primarily due to adolescent students’ heightened concern about perceived social stigma related to receiving a free or reduced-price lunch, despite our School Nutrition Department’s ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize the experience.  With the free-meals-for-all program, this concern has been completely eliminated for all students.

Having universal access to nutritious, free meals at school has been one of the few truly beneficial changes to come out of the pandemic for our students and families. Since it will no longer be supported by Federal funds, we have advocated with our state legislators for the Massachusetts Legislature to provide alternative funding to continue this program that benefits every school-aged child in the Commonwealth, but particularly those who experience food insecurity in their daily lives.  I am pleased to report that Representative Mindy Domb and Senator Jo Comerford are very supportive of such funding and, in fact, the Massachusetts’ House budget, which has now been passed to the Senate, includes such funding.  We will keep our families updated as the issue moves through the budgetary process.

As a reminder, break begins tomorrow and runs through next week.  I hope our ARPS families, students and staff have a nice, restful break! 

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