SALAMANCA — All students in the Salamanca City Central School District will once again be able to eat breakfast and lunch at school for free in the upcoming school year.

The district recently announced that it will continue its policy for serving meals at no charge under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program for the 2019-20 school year.

This is the sixth year the program has been in effect at Salamanca schools, and Karen Magara, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, said it has been great so far with participation steady.

“This last year we changed up the menu just a bit and added things like a Warrior Burger (which is a double burger) and the kids love it,” she said.

In the 2018-19 school year, 121,567 breakfasts, 166,559 lunches and 17,480 snacks were served to a student population of about 1,400 students, Magara said, which overall was up compared to the previous year, partially due to an increased number of students.

While the first meals are free, any students who wish to have a second breakfast or lunch are charged.

In addition to breakfast and lunch, the district added on the snack program for afterschool activities a few years ago.

“Those students who remain on campus for after school opportunities are eligible to get a snack prior to the start of their activity,” Magara said. “This also has high participation. Who doesn’t love a free snack?”

The district has received great feedback when meeting with the student “lunch bunch” team, Magara explained.

“We have a team of students (7-12 graders) who participate in an annual meeting to discuss how they like or don’t like the food and what improvements they would like to see,” she said, “as long as we can remain in compliance with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and all of the required nutrient values of that.”

Additionally, as in the past, Magara said the district has made arrangements with the other schools that host Salamanca students to cover their meals as well.

But the food isn’t the only thing that has improved in recent years. Magara said the district has also spruced up the cafeterias a bit as well with different serving methods and signage.

For younger students, new cafeterias await them at the end of the district’s ongoing capital improvement project.

“We are eagerly awaiting the opening of the new multi-purpose room at the Seneca Intermediate in fall of 2020, and of course the new kitchen/cafeteria in Prospect Elementary shortly thereafter,” Magara added.

Due to the socio-economic status of many families in the Salamanca district, Magara said many students are fortunate to eat two good, healthy meals at school and then many times have nothing at home.

“It’s important that we can give them at least two good meals a day because many would go without if it were not for the program,” she said. “We also have small food pantries to assist those students who struggle with having food for dinner or for weekends.”

Magara also said Salamanca is one of the first schools to participate in the Community Eligibility Program. In recent years, several other local school districts have opted into the program.

“Our current program expires June 30, 2020, but I will certainly be reapplying in the spring of 2020 for another three years of participation,” she added.

For more information on the meal program, call the school at 945-2400 or contact Magara at kmagara@salamancany.org.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)