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Child Nutrition Program



Beth Krause, Director of Child Nutrition
Phone: 607-274-2302
Fax: (607) 274-6836

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Updates and Announcements

Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban
In 2020, New York State adopted the nation's strongest statewide ban of expanded polystyrene, single-use foam food and beverage containers, and polystyrene loose fill packaging materials, commonly known as packing peanuts. Under this ban, effective January 1, 2022, no covered food service store or provider - including elementary and secondary schools - will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute disposable food service containers or loose fill packaging that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York. (Click here to learn more about the Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban .) The ICSD will be using some styrofoam products until we run out, as, due to supply chain shortages, styrofoam products were all we were able to acquire for some time.

Supply Chain Shortages
The Ithaca City School District is experiencing serious nationwide supply chain issues with labor shortages and food shortages. Products with flour, juice cups, ketchup, bread, yogurt, cheese sticks, cereal choices, and sometimes milk are in severe shortage. Getting orders delivered on time is very challenging. Still, our Child Nutrition staff are working their best to serve nutritious meals for our students this school year by ordering foods and supplies months ahead of time to ensure students do not feel food shortages and have the best experience. However, scarcity in non-food items such as paper products — compostable trays — is becoming a significant issue. Companies do not have the raw ingredients to make the paper trays and have limited labor to deliver. Other school districts across the U.S. face the same shortages and have tried plates, bowls, bags, finally down to styrofoam trays that are in minimal supply, too (McGee, 2021; Morris, 2021; Tucker, 2021). Our staff is trying very hard to find substitutes for lunch trays and has come up with creative solutions. As a collaborative community, we prioritize students' health and learning, and we appreciate your patience and support in this unprecedented time!

USDA Extends Free Meals for All Kids
The USDA extended various nationwide waivers that support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. As a result of these waiver extensions, the ICSD will be able to offer free school breakfast and lunch for any child, regardless of eligibility status, for the entire 2021-2022 school year.
Apply for SNAP
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have wide-ranging health and economic impacts, please know that you may be eligible for programs that will help you buy food for your family, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Learn more and apply today!
Apply for SNAP button
FAQs: P-EBT Food Benefits
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 authorized the payment of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) food benefits to households with children who would have received free school lunches under the National School Lunch Act, if not for a school closure. These temporary food benefits are to help cover the cost of meals children would otherwise would have received at school. To learn more, view Frequently Asked Questions for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Food Benefits.

The Ithaca City School District participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to providing reimbursement and government donated commodities for meals, the USDA also sets the nutrition standards our meals must meet.

School meals offer students fruits and vegetables, proteins and grains, and milk, all of which they must meet strict limits on saturated fat and portion size. The USDA Guidelines include:

  • Age-appropriate calorie limits
  • Servings of vegetables and fruit
    • Students MUST take ½ cup serving of fruit or vegetable with their meal
  • A wide variety of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables and legumes
  • Fat-free Milk
  • More whole grains
  • Less sodium
While 5 options must be offered, only 3 need to be taken for the school to receive reimbursement for the meal. One of those 3 must be a fruit or a vegetable. (In addition to students who receive free or reduced price meals, we also receive a smaller reimbursement for students who pay for their meals). Schools receive reimbursements from the federal government and a smaller reimbursement from the state government.

So students can take a vegetable, a fruit, and a grain and that would allow the school to be reimbursed. Students could also take a protein (such as a Cool School Food bean-based entrée), a vegetable, and a fruit, for the meal to be reimbursed. As long as students take 3 options, and one is a fruit or a vegetable, the school district gets reimbursed.

Water must be made available to all students and is available in all cafeterias.
Customer Service

The employees of the Ithaca School Food Service Program are committed to providing students with nutritious, tasty meals in an atmosphere they will enjoy. We understand that a hungry child cannot learn. School meals serve as a building block to promote the growth and development of our students and can provide one of the tools they need to achieve a positive and optimal learning environment.

Meeting the nutritional needs and food preferences of Ithaca students is the department’s primary goal. We invite parents and students to contact our staff with any comments or requests. If you have a favorite recipe you would like to submit, we are always on the lookout for new menu items and try to incorporate new and different foods that children may not have tasted before.

Consumer education is one of the goals of the food service department. You and your child(ren) will observe the following throughout the school year:

  • Free samples and taste testing in student cafeterias
  • New food items highlighted on the printed menu
  • Cool School Foods – Plant-Based Foods From Around The World

We also make every effort to accommodate students with food intolerances or allergies. District-wide, there are many students with food allergies, some of which are life-threatening. If your child has lactose intolerance, a food allergy, or other medical condition that affects their diet, please obtain a note from your physician and send it to the school nurse. The note should indicate the food(s) the child cannot eat and recommend substitutions when applicable. A note will be put on the child’s account to alert cashiers to check the tray when the child comes through the line.

If you have questions about food allergies or any other facet of the school lunch and breakfast programs, please call our office at 607-274-2302. We also invite parents to join their children for lunch at any time. Please contact the main office at your child’s school to make arrangements if you wish to visit.