In Food Forward NYC, the City announced its food policy plans for the next ten years. Many of the policy changes that Food Ed Coalition members have been advocating for, including expansion of scratch-cooking and increased access to school meals, were included in Food Forward NYC. Below is a summary of the school food provisions in the plan.
Our Coalition members look forward to working with the City over the next decade to ensure that ALL NYC students have quality food and nutrition education and sustainably-produced, culturally-responsive, healthy school food.
Steps to Expand Scratch Cooking
- Explore ways to increase the amount of freshly prepared meals in public schools: The City will identify ways to ensure that that a citywide school food menu includes more fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains; less meat; more locally accessed food; and increased access to safe drinking water. The City will conduct a landscape analysis to identify infrastructure, labor, ingredient availability, communication, and community input facilitators and barriers related to scratch-cooking.
- Study the viability of food hubs to expand public schools’ access to cold storage, processing space, and preparation capacity: Schools often lack the space to store, process, and prepare many of the fresh ingredients needed to scratch cook; however, retrofitting every school cafeteria would be very difficult. The City will study the viability of food hubs as a tool to help schools overcome barriers to scratch cooking.
- Create workforce development programs for school food workers: The City will partner with academic and private sector partners to develop an intensive and comprehensive training curriculum for all school food managers. Training topics may include, but not be limited to, leadership, storage, organization, and knife skills; tool and equipment use; basic cooking techniques; menu planning; and food preparation.
Other Exciting School Food Plans
- Permanently include whole families in summer meal programs: As part of its emergency response to COVID-19, the City has allowed whole families—adults in addition to children—to access free, no-questions- asked grab & go school meals. The City will advocate to the federal government to make summer meals for families a permanent program, as well as remove the congregate meal requirement.
- Improve cafeteria culture in public schools: As part of its strategic planning process, the DOE's Office of Food & Nutrition Services will develop an action plan that encourages principals and school kitchens to create a physically attractive, caring, and calming cafeteria environment, allowing meals to be more enjoyable.
- Partner with the private and civic sectors on sustainability and nutrition food ed campaigns: A major challenge in advancing food policy in New York City is the lack of shared knowledge. To address this challenge, the City will encourage broader food education. In the sustainability field, opportunities may include convening private sector partners to develop sustainable food campaigns. On nutrition, the City will continue to combat predatory food marketing practices targeted at youth, support breastfeeding parents through public campaigns, and advance school-based health education. The City will also push the State to develop a school curriculum covering food, agriculture, and climate change.
- Explore new partnerships with schools around food access: School kitchens can act as critical food infrastructure in low-income communities. The City will explore pathways to use school kitchens for other food uses during times in which they are underused. For example, community-based organizations could serve holiday meals using the kitchen space.