Return to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
Newton had been operating under the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) during the pandemic, which is a USDA program that allowed for universally-free meals that could be provided in grab-and-go packaging and could be eaten in locations outside of the cafeteria. However, the Seamless Summer Option program expired as of 6/30/22. For the 2022-2023 school year, Newton will return to operating under the more structured National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Although Massachusetts is extending universally-free meals for the 2022-23 school year - for first meals only, all students will need to have their meal counted, meals will need to be served and eaten in the cafeteria, and there is no provision for grab-and-go meals.
2022-23 Meal Pricing
On 7/28, Massachusetts confirmed additional funding at the state level to extend universally-free meals for students for the 22-23 school year. However, regardless of this additional state-specific funding, Newton is required to charge for any second meals or a la carte items purchased by students.
The School Committee voted pricing for paid meals at their 6/21 meeting. Second meals at the elementary schools will be $5.25 and $5.50 at the middle and high schools.
You can view the recommendation here: Paid Lunch Pricing Recommendation Presentation.
Free and Reduced-Price Eligibility and Summer P-EBT
Students who have been Directly Certified as free or reduced-price eligible on or before August 31, 2022 will qualify for Summer 2022 P-EBT. Newton provides the eligiblity information to the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), but DTA coordinates all P-EBT programs and funds.
For students who are not determined eligible for free or reduced-price meals through Direct Certification, the 2022-23 Free and Reduced Price School Meals Household Application will be used as a method for households to apply for benefits and Summer 2022 Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). All applications approved through August 31, 2022 will qualify households for Summer 2022 P-EBT.
Newly matched students for SY 22-23 may qualify for SY 22-23 P-EBT if Massachusetts is approved next school year.
Meal Counting Is Required
Although first meals will be universally free again this year, the reimbursement process under the NSLP requires that all meals be counted at the individual student level to be able to process both the federal and state reimbursements. It will be a culture change for students to return to waiting in line to get their food and to pass through the Point of Sale register to have their meal counted. Internally, each student will be coded as free, reduced, or paid, which will determine the reimbursement funding the district receives based upon their eligibility status.
As such, it is critical that families who need financial support but would not receive free or reduced-price meals based upon categorical eligibility through Direct Certification - receiving SNAP, TAFDC, or FDPIR or specific categories of Medicaid, foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court, children participating in their school’s Head Start program, or children who meet the definition of homeless, runaway, or migrant - apply for free or reduced-price eligibility based upon federal eligibility income levels.