Food Service News - September 2021
We have heard concerns from many families about food service this year. Please know that we are listening to you and working closely with our food service partner to address your concerns and questions.
The ongoing impact of the pandemic is being felt acutely by our food service partners this year. Staffing shortages, food supply chain issues, and logistical challenges of serving food in multiple locations in each school building due to distancing efforts, has made food service incredibly complex. We are working to address these challenges as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.
Please review answers to the questions we have received most frequently below.
The ability to expand the grab-and-go lunches that were provided last year is thwarted by a reduced workforce within our food services provider (Whitsons), from supply chain and food shortages – specifically fresh fruit options, and from the logistical challenges of serving lunch from multiple locations at each school to allow for appropriate social distancing while students and staff eat in maskless settings.
Due to the need to provide safe spaces for students to eat in maskless settings, each school is providing lunch in at least two and up to five different settings within each building. The additional settings dictate additional coordination and staff to get the food to the students and continue to adhere to all food safety protocols. Additional lunch options can be implemented in the kitchen when it is safe for all students to eat together in the cafeteria, which will eliminate the current food delivery complexity.
On rare occasions, an item may be missing from the grab-and-go lunches. To make it easy for students to grab a missing item, additional fruit or side dish options will be available at each of the different serving stations at each school.
The food portions for each meal are dictated by the federal standards, which may mean that some students are still hungry after finishing their meal. Another meal will be provided to your student if needed while school lunches are free this year under the Seamless Summer Option.
Many hands make light work. We have a real need for additional food service workers, employed by Whitsons directly, or lunch monitors, employed by Newton Public Schools. If interested yourself or if you know someone who might be interested, please apply on the district website at https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/domain/62.
We ask for your patience as food delivery continues to be challenging. If you have a question along the way, please contact either:
Director of Business Operations
Whitsons General Manager
USDA Funds Meals for 2021-22 School Year
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding free lunches for all students for the 2021-22 school year. This means that any student in the Newton Public Schools is eligible for free lunch (and free breakfast where available.) Students who are in school buildings through lunch can simply ask for the meal on the menu for that day (see below) and the meal will be provided to them free of charge.
Free and Reduced Meal Program
While all students in the Newton Public Schools will continue to receive school meals free of charge for the 2021-22 school year, it is still important for qualified families to complete the Free and Reduced Meal Application. By completing the application, your student and family may be eligible to receive additional benefits beyond the free and reduced meal program.
A few important notes:
- If you have had a change in job status or income, you may now be eligible for the free and reduced meal program. We encourage you to complete the application by September 8th.
- If your student was enrolled in the Newton Public Schools last year and you are now eligible for the free and reduced meals program (but have not yet completed the application), you can receive a summer P-EBT card. To receive the card, you must complete the application. A P-EBT card is a debit card with funds already loaded onto it that can be used to purchase food items at your local grocery store.
- To receive the P-EBT card benefit, you MUST complete the free and reduced meal application by September 8th.
- If you are already enrolled in the free and reduced meal program and received a P-EBT card last year, you do NOT need to reapply. You will remain enrolled in the free and reduced meal program this year.
Breakfast and Lunch Menus
Food menus by school can be found this website: https://www.fdmealplanner.com/
To access the menus by school, click on the website link and then search "Newton" in the search bar. You will be taken to a page where you can select your student's specific school. The website provides a customizable and interactive menu with nutritional and allergy information included.
Food and Nutrition Services
The Newton Public Schools is committed to providing students with healthy, balanced, and delicious meals. Following USDA guidelines, students are offered a variety of healthy options, including locally grown and sources fruits and vegetables. Follow the links below for more information, including menus, payment information, and contact information.Visit: https://www.fdmealplanner.com/ for interactive school meal menus. This online interactive tool provides allergy and nutritional information.At MySchoolBucks, you can set up an online account to manage your student's meal balance. Check purchases, add funds online, set up automatic replenishment and more.Partner - Whitsons Culinary GroupThe Newton Public Schools partners with Whitsons to provide food service in the Newton Public Schools. Whitsons offers tasty and nutritious meals and demonstrates a strong commitment to sustainable food and environmental practices. Meals include a variety of menu options, featuring wholesome, natural ingredients, sourced in part from local vendors.School Lunch PolicyThe Newton School Committee recently updated its food service policy. Please review the food service policy for specific information related to food service balances. The district is committed to providing meals to all students who choose to participate in the school lunch program and requires that parents/guardians and/or students satisfy all financial obligations to the lunch program in a timely manner.
Through the National School Lunch Program, financial assistance is provided to families to ensure students have access to healthy, nutritionally balanced meals each day. Should you need assistance, you may apply for free and reduced meal benefits through the online application. The online application is easy to complete and is definitely the quickest and most efficient for you to confirm your eligibility and to enroll your student(s).
Should you need to apply via mail, you may print out the forms on the right side of this page. Please note that we do encourage you to utilize the online application as it will ensure your application is processed more quickly.
Do you have questions? Please open or download this PDF document to review some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about the Free and Reduced Meal Program.
Food allergies in children can affect about 8% of students. In the Newton Public Schools, families, staff and the school nurse work together to minimize the risk of exposure to food allergens and be prepared to act if an allergic reaction occurs. The Newton School Committee has set age-appropriate guidelines for student and schools. For more information on allergy management in schools, please visit the School Health webpage on the City of Newton website.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the goal of food service at NPS?
Together with our food service partner Whitsons, we aim to deliver healthy and delicious school meals based on the USDA’s nutrition guidelines. We know that when students have access to healthy meals, they are more engaged and ready to learn.
What does a “meal” include?
All meals include a protein, a carbohydrate, fresh fruit and vegetable choices, as well as beverage options, including non-fat or low-fat milk. At the middle and high school levels, a la carte items such as snacks and beverages are available for purchase.
Where can I see what is on the menu?
You can visit the Newton Public Schools homepage and click on the pink “Food Service and Menus” button the Lunch menus.
What is the process to purchase a meal at school?
At the beginning of the year, teachers and staff at all schools will explain to students the process for purchasing a meal in the cafeteria. In elementary school, they will also be sure to let you know what time lunch is every day so that you can plan accordingly with your student. Please know that NPS staff is always on hand in the cafeterias to assist students, especially our younger students, in purchasing a meal.
How does my child pay for a meal?
Your student may pay with cash at the register. Or if you prefer, you can add funds to your child’s “meal account” via check or at MySchoolBucks.com, our online meal account information system. Their purchase will then be charged against this meal account.
Is my student automatically given a meal account?
Yes, all students in the Newton Public Schools are given a meal account. You can access this account by setting up a login and password at MySchoolBucks.com. At MySchoolBucks.com, you can view transactions for the past 90 days and current account balances. You also have the option to add funds to the meal account for a convenience fee of $2.00.
How is the meal account charged?
In elementary school, your student may use a card with their name on it at the register as they check out. Some elementary schools do not use a card, in which case your student will simply tell the cashier his/her name. In middle and high school, students will key in their student ID number at the register. At all schools, the student’s account includes a picture to verify their identity at the point of sale. The meal is then charged against the account.
In elementary school, where do they get a card and what happens if my student forgets to bring it to the cafeteria?
Your student may receive a card with his/her name and student ID number on it. If your school uses cards (some do not) the card is handed to the cashier after the meal is selected. The purchase is then deducted from the meal account. If your elementary student forgets the card, it is not a problem. The staff person will simply ask them their first and last name and their purchase will be recorded. For schools that do not use cards, the student provides their name to the cashier.
Do they need my permission to purchase a meal?
Federal law prohibits schools from denying any child a meal. Therefore, staff will not ask your child if they have permission to purchase lunch or any a la carte items.
How do I prevent my child from buying food?
Because we are prohibited by law from denying a student a meal, we ask that you please have a conversation with your child about the meals and items they may or may not purchase from the cafeteria. If it continues to be an issue, please contact your child’s teacher or principal. They will work with food service to place a note on your child’s account identifying any restrictions.
How do I put money on my child’s lunch account?
MySchoolBucks.com is the district’s online tool to manage your student’s meal account. You may use MySchoolBucks to add funds to your student’s account, pay balances, and view purchases, Please note that a $2.00 transaction fee will apply when adding funds via MySchoolBucks. If you prefer, you may add funds or pay balances via check. Please make checks payable to NPS Food Service, write your child’s name in the note section, and send to: NPS Food Service, 457 Walnut St. Newton, MA 02460.
How do I check my student’s meal account balance?
The best way to check your account balance is to log into MySchoolBucks. If it is your first time logging in, you will be asked to create a username and password. You can also download the MySchoolBucks app. Even if you choose to pay via check, MySchoolBucks is the best way to view your student’s purchases and meal account balance.
What if I forget to add funds to my student’s meal account and they have a zero or negative balance?
Federal law prohibits schools from denying a meal to a student. Your student will not be denied a meal. We understand it can be challenging to remember to check the balance and add funds. However, negative meal account balances do impact the school operating budget. Our operations department is working with the Newton School Committee to create a policy to address negative meal account balances and to help families keep their account in good standing.
How do I request a transfer or refund?
If you wish to transfer funds and you are the account holder named on your students’ account, email Julie Athanasiadis at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the names of your students and the dollar amount to be transferred. To request a refund, email Julie and provide the following information:
Student ID Number:
Contact phone number:
Please note that refunds take 4 – 6 weeks to arrive.
What do I do if my child has food allergies?
If your child has allergies, it is important that you contact your school nurse directly. The school nurse will work with you to develop an allergy plan that is specific to the needs of your child. We work closely with the Newton Public School nurses to ensure your child can safely access our food service programs.
How do I know if my child qualifies for a free and reduced meal?
You can check eligibility by completing the online form. Online applications are processed quickly and you will receive an answer within a few days. If you do qualify, this information will be provided to the Newton Public Schools and noted on your child’s account.
What is included in a Free and Reduced meal? Is it different from other meals served?
The free and reduced meal is exactly the same as the meal served to students who do not participate in the program. It consists of a protein, carbohydrate, beverage, and fruit or vegetable. Students in the program pay less for their meal, but this information is kept confidential. Please note, however, that snacks and extra a la carte items are not reduced and must be purchased at full price.