The latest wrench thrown at school food service departments post pandemic is the impact of rising inflation on school meals. According to the latest Consumer Price Index data, school meal prices increased more than 300 percent over the past year.

As schools are undoubtedly looking to stretch their dollars further and continue to prioritize feeding students healthy and nutritious meals, American Dairy Association North East offers support and a variety of resources to help reallocate spending.

One way many schools in New York can reduce costs is by taking advantage of the 30% New York State Initiative. Through this program, schools are encouraged to support local farmers and the local economy by providing students with nutritious food products from local sources, such as milk, yogurt and cheese from New York’s more than 3,500 local dairy farms. This initiative increases the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent of ingredients for their school lunch program from New York farms.

A blue school lunch plate with a carton of milk, grape juice, broccoli, apple, sour cream, cheese, potatoes, and meat.

Locally-sourced foods including milk, cheese, sour cream, potatoes and apples are featured on this school cafeteria tray. (Photo credit: Julie Raway)

The Lockport City School District was one of Fuel Up to Play 60’s grant recipients for a smoothie kit.

Dairy farmers, in partnership with American Dairy Association North East and the NFL, also offer schools an opportunity to receive up to $4,000 in funding for in-school, nutrition-focused equipment through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Applications for Spring 2023 will open in late March or early April. Recent examples of equipment offerings include smoothie kits and mobile meal carts.

“Thanks to support from American Dairy Association North East and through our participation in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, we have already increased our lunch participation by six percent,” said Shannon Dyke, School Nutrition Director at Middle Country Central School District in Suffolk County. “The program provided us with new equipment to be able to offer our students new recipes – like smoothies – that the students thought was a great addition to the menu.”

Not only does American Dairy Association North East regularly coordinate programs that help increase meal participation, programs are also designed to help schools acquire new equipment. One example is “Strive for 35!,” which helps to ensure schools are serving milk at an optimal temperature, keeping students satisfied. Schools that participate are eligible to win milk coolers. Another program is the NY Thursdays promotion which awarded six schools in New York with grab-and-go kiosks and insulated meal service bags.

By taking advantage of some, or all, of these types of funding opportunities, schools spend less money on equipment and more on their top priority – providing nutritious meals to their students. Please contact American Dairy Association North East at for all of your school meal assistance.