Free Breakfast and Lunch Programs to Enroll Your Children In


When there is not enough money for healthy meals, families do have other options for their children. There are several programs available through the school system to help feed children. Whether the meals are at full-cost, a reduced price or free doesn’t matter. The meals served at school are the same for everyone.

School Meal Programs

A child who goes to school on an empty stomach struggles to concentrate on his or her subjects, and does poorly on tests. Children who miss meals tend to be tardy or absent more than those who do not. For these reasons, all students who go to school in New York City can receive breakfasts at no cost. The program, called SchoolFood, provides meal services through various models.

Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC)

Students in elementary school in New York City are ensured a complete breakfast to start their days right. The meals served are made to be both nutritious and tasty. Students are offered breakfast meals, but do not have to partake, especially if they already had decent meals at home.

Grab & Go

Easy-to-grab breakfasts are located in the school dining areas or at stations around schools where there is heavy foot traffic. These offerings contain items that are easy to eat on-the-go.

Traditional Service Lines

Breakfast is served in the dining section of the school before classes start each day. As with the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program, students do not have to participate in the program unless they want to eat.

Saturday Meals

For students who participate in a Saturday education program or an enrichment program, there is a Saturday Meals program. To apply, see the school administrator.


The Living for the Young Family Through Education (LYFE) program targets student parents and their children. Through this program, both the children and their parents receive nutritious meals.

Summer Meals

This program operates differently than the other NYC SchoolFood programs. Instead of serving lunch or breakfast in the school, mobile food trucks deliver meals to locations such as beaches, parks, and even playgrounds. The meals are free to those who are 18 and younger.

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was created to provide nutritious lunch meals for free or at low-cost to students. The federally assisted program is available in most public and some private schools. The program also reimburses after school programs that qualify. The lunch menus are required to meet federal requirements for nutritional value and quality. The costs of the meals are based on the income levels and sizes of families. For low-income families who meet the required income level, the student meals are free. To apply, pick up an application at the school.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

Childhood obesity is a prevalent problem with children. In order to combat it, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) was created to introduce healthier choices to students. By providing various fruits and vegetables, children can increase their nutrition levels and improve their diets. FFVP is federally assisted and distributed to schools who provide breakfast or lunch programs.

Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is another federally funded program that serves meals to children and teens. There are two ways in which it differs from the other school meal programs. First is that it is provided during the summer months, while school is out of session. Second is that it is not necessarily provided on school grounds. Community centers, churches, parks and other venues can be sponsors that are authorized by the state. To participate in the program, contact the Department of Education for help finding a site nearby.

Garden to Café

Garden to Café is a different style of program. Rather than handing out free food, the program encourages students to learn sustainable living by working in gardens. Harvested fruits and vegetables such as kale, tomatoes and root vegetables are then used in preparing lunches. The program teaches children and teenagers the value of having a garden while also encouraging them to eat more fresh vegetables. It also teaches them the benefits of locally sourced foods. This program is not available at every school.

How to Enroll

Most of these school programs provide applications in the main offices of the schools. For federally funded programs, contact the state department for how to apply. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is sponsored at various community sites. Certain sponsors such as churches may require enrollment in their summer programs in order to participate in the SFSP meals.