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Charles Mostoller

Charles Mostoller / The Notebook

Behind the Philly public school meal program

Our ‘food issue’ is out. Take a look inside.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Did you know that last school year, the School District of Philadelphia served 15,694,437 lunches and 9,878,282 breakfasts? That’s a lot of food to prep and distribute in a way that’s nutritious and appealing to students. And it’s a critical task in a city where food insecurity – hunger – is a major issue.

The Notebook’s newest issue focuses on youth, schools, and food. We take a look at what school breakfast and lunch look like in the District and how the District’s Division of Food Services – though lean in its staff – is getting the job done with the help of many dedicated school kitchen managers.

Our cover story, “Feeding the children,” breaks down how the District’s Division of Food Services operates and looks at some of the work it has done, including adding more full-service kitchens to schools. The District has been a pioneer in its approach of universal feeding, and our story discusses the federal laws and changes to nutrition guidelines that have affected the division’s work.

The centerspread layout is packed with resources and data. Parents and others wanting to know specifics about school food programs should check out "Q&A: School breakfast and lunch," which explains issues like how to get free breakfast and lunch for your child in school and how to register complaints about meals. We also list best and worst breakfast participation rates for District and charter schools, and identify which schools have full-service kitchens.

Our theme package also includes a profile of South Philadelphia High School kitchen manager Sal Taylor, who runs the school’s full-service kitchen and is responsible for feeding hundreds of students daily.

In "What’s on the school menu?" students from Philadelphia Military Academy, Roberto Clemente Middle School, and Bridesburg Elementary talk about pre-plated vs. full-service meals and what they like most.

We look at W.B. Saul High School, one of the few urban agricultural high schools in the country, and what students are learning there.

There has been a wave of student activism on food issues. Students at Northeast High School and Central High School talk about how they have taken charge in their schools to improve students’ access to food and water.

The print edition, available starting today, will be distributed over the next week to every District and charter school, all branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and many other community sites (see map of locations). You can also read the entire issue online now. Notebook members receive a free copy of our edition in the mail.

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