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PR- 348-08
September 8, 2008


Online Application Will Simplify Process for Families with Children in Multiple Schools; Applications Can Be Completed in Seven Different Languages

Use of Technology Transforms Age-Old Paper Process, Simplifies Government Services, and Improves Access to Benefits

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs today announced that for the first time, an online application for free and reduced-price school lunch is available through ACCESS NYC, the online tool that brings more than 35 different city, state and federal programs into a single website that allows New Yorkers to pre-screen for human service benefits. Children in New York City public and private schools who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches will receive a flyer at their schools this week encouraging their families to visit to complete the school lunch application and to submit it online. Shifting the application process from paper to online is environmentally friendly and will result in savings for the Department of Education by reducing data entry, processing and paper costs. The online application simplifies the process for families with children in different schools, since it allows them to submit one application for all of their children instead of separate applications for each school. Families may continue to submit the paper form if they so choose.

"Making school lunch applications available online gives parents a faster and easier way to qualify their children for free or reduced price meals," said Mayor Bloomberg. "As more and more families gain access to the internet, we have more and more opportunities to make it easier and less complicated for people to interact with government. Offering the school meals application online will not only make the process easier for parents, but it will also make it easier for schools to process the applications."

In his 2008 State of the City speech, the Mayor announced HHS-Connect, which will link more than a dozen City human services agencies, and allow caseworkers to share client information without compromising confidentiality. The HHS-Connect initiative reduces the paperwork burden for caseworkers, improves customer service, and allows better accessibility to the City's various programs and services for New Yorkers who need them most. This new functionality offered on ACCESS NYC is part of the larger HHS-Connect initiative to improve access to health and human services by leveraging technology.

"We are thrilled to kick-off the school year by offering families an easy online option for submitting their school meal application, and encourage anyone who thinks they may be eligible to log onto," said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. "ACCESS NYC provides crucial benefit information for New Yorkers in one place and is one of 40 anti-poverty strategies implemented by the Center for Economic Opportunity."

"It is so important for parents to fill out the lunch application to ensure that all eligible students receive free or reduce-price lunch," said Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott. "Parents always have been able to receive this form from their principals, and now we have new online access, which is a great way for us to reach as many families as possible. Under Mayor Bloomberg, the City has worked hard to provide students with delicious and nutritious meals, and as part of this effort, the City in 2004 introduced a breakfast program that is free of charge to any student. We know that a nutritious meal is necessary for our children to stay alert and do well in school."

"We have worked hard in recent years to give our students higher quality and healthier food at school," Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said. "Now, it's important that parents fill out this form -- online or at their schools -- so that children will receive free or reduced-price lunches if they are eligible."

"Providing families for the first time with the opportunity to apply for free and reduced price school lunch online through ACCESS NYC is big step forward in making City services even more accessible to all New Yorkers," said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "We have been working closely with the administration to reduce hunger throughout the City, and to make the process of applying for services as simple as possible. This new application process will make it even easier for more parents to sign their children up for school lunch, providing them with the food they need to succeed in school."

"As more New Yorkers become comfortable interacting with their city online, it's incumbent upon us to continue to innovate accordingly, and that's the promise that ACCESS NYC has been delivering on for two years now," said DoITT Commissioner Paul Cosgrave. "The free and reduced price lunch application is the latest example of applying new technology to a proven program to make it more convenient for our customers, in the end benefiting both New Yorkers and the agencies that serve them."

"The launch of the online school meals application represents an important first milestone for the HHS-Connect team," said Health and Human Services Chief Information Officer Kamal Bherwani. "Due to close collaboration with the Department of Education and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, in just a few short months, we were able to take an age old paper-based process and make it more efficient online."

The online application process takes about 15 minutes and after the family completes the process, they are encouraged to continue onto pre-screening to learn about other benefits they might be eligible to receive. The online application is available in seven languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Russian and Haitian-Creole.

The Department of Education serves 600,000 lunches per day, 236,000 are free or reduced cost. In order to be eligible for reduced price school lunch a family of four must have an income under $39,220 and a family of four with an income of under $27,560 is eligible for free school lunch. The free and reduced price school lunch applications are available online by logging on to


Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker/Kathleen Carlson   (212) 788-2958

David Cantor   (Department of Education)
(212) 374-5141

Nick Sbordone   (Information Technology & Telecommunications)
(212) 788-6602

Laura Gordon (Speaker's Office)   (212) 788-7116

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