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HCSD to Offer No-Cost Meals to All Students Thanks to State Funding

The Highland Central School District (HCSD) is pleased to share that effective Wednesday, November 1, it will provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students in all schools. This is being made possible by the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) designation and funding granted to the District by the New York State Education Department.

The CEP includes one breakfast meal and one lunch meal for each student every full day that school is in session. Additional meals may be purchased at the following prices: breakfast at all schools, $2.10; lunch at the Elementary School, $3.10; lunch at the Middle and High Schools, $3.35. There is still an additional cost to purchase à la carte items. À la carte items include, but are not limited to, snacks, bottled water, doubles, and extras.

It is important to note that no-cost breakfasts and lunches are not retroactive and any negative debt incurred prior to November 1, 2023 will remain on the student’s account until payment is received.

Previously, only certain families qualified for free meals through New York State. However, due to a new funding provision included in the State budget, Highland is now included in this program. Even though meals will be provided free of charge, families are still encouraged to fill out and send back the free and reduced meal application, which can be found on the District website. Completion of the applications helps the District receive State funding and can provide additional benefits for students and families. Examples of these benefits include discounts on home internet costs, academic testing, college applications, and more.

Additionally, because the District is receiving State and Federal reimbursement for this program, having more students take advantage of the no-cost meals at school will actually help the Food Services Department receive more funding in the future. 

Highland Superintendent Joel Freer stressed the importance of this funding. “This program will ensure that all of our students can receive the benefits of a nutritious meal in school every day,” he said. “Studies have shown that school meals are crucial to a child’s well-being and ability to learn and we are fortunate to be able to provide no-cost meals to all students in Highland.”

The District strongly encourages families to participate in this program and ensure that all children receive the benefits of a nutritious meal.

For more information about the CEP, check out the Frequently Asked Questions below or on our website, here.



Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)?


A: The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a funding option under the National School Lunch Act that allows eligible schools to provide free meals to all students. 


Q: Do I need to fill out an application for my child to receive meals at no cost?


A: No, families do not need to fill out an application for their child to gain eligibility for breakfast and lunch at no cost. We do encourage families to still fill out the application in order to leverage additional benefits they may be eligible for, such as discounted home internet service, academic testing fees, college applications, and more.


Q: What makes the Highland Central School District (HCSD) eligible for this provision?


A: In September, the United States Department of Agriculture approved a change to the CEP that made more children eligible. The change allowed the HCSD to qualify and apply for the program.


Q: What does CEP cover for my child? 


A: With the CEP designation, all children in all HCSD schools can receive one healthy breakfast and one nutritious lunch per full school day.


Q: I’m new to the District and/or the Food Services program - what does a healthy lunch entail for my child? What about breakfast?


A: A healthy lunch always consists of five components: a protein, grain, fruit, vegetable, and milk. To be considered a full meal, children must choose at least three of these components, including either a fruit or vegetable. A full breakfast consists of four components: two grains (main entree), one cup of fruit/juice or a vegetable, one cup of milk. Students must choose three of the four components offered with one of those components being a fruit/juice or vegetable.


Q: Can my child still purchase snacks and à la carte items? What about a second breakfast or lunch?


A: Yes, snacks and à la carte items (including milk) are available. However, students will need cash or funds in their prepaid accounts to make these purchases. Also, only the first breakfast and first lunch of the day are free. A second breakfast or lunch would need to be purchased. 


Q: How can I add funds to my child’s account to make those types of purchases?


A: You can add funds by sending a check or cash to your child's school or virtually through MySchoolBucks, an online school meal payment system (transaction fee applies to online payments). If paying with cash or check, please have your child take the payment to the kitchen during breakfast or lunch. 


Q: What if I already have money in my child's account for meals? Can I get it back?


A: Parents can either request a refund from the Food Services Department or leave the funds on their student’s account for à la carte items or snacks. Please send an email to Andrea Shoulars to request a refund. Please include first name, last name and ID # of the student. Also, include parent/guardian name and address where the reimbursement check should be mailed. If there is automatic replenishment on your student's MySchoolBucks account, please stop it before requesting meal account reimbursement.


Q: What if there is negative debt left on my child’s account?


A: No-cost breakfasts and lunches are not retroactive and any negative debt incurred prior to November 1, 2023 will remain on the student’s account until payment is received.


Q: What if my child brings their own lunch and just wants some milk or a piece of fruit? 


A: According to State guidelines, in order to access the free meal benefit, a child must take what counts as a full meal, which means choosing at least three of the five components (including a fruit or vegetable) that make up the meal. Food Services staff will guide your child in understanding what constitutes a full meal.


Q: What if my child has dietary restrictions? How will the HCSD address their safety? 


A: HCSD offers a variety of food options. If your child has dietary restrictions, you can provide a doctor's note, which will be kept on file and incorporated into your child's official account.


Q: Does funding for school meals come out of my school taxes? 


A: No, meals and food at schools are not funded by your school tax dollars. Instead, the funding comes from Federal and State taxes.