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Food Services

Lisa Finkenbinder, School Lunch Director

Arbor Hill Elementary School

1 Arbor Drive

Albany, NY 12210



Free breakfast and lunch for all district students

Because many of our families struggle economically, the City School District of Albany participates in a federal program that allows each of our more than 9,000 students to receive breakfast and lunch for free each day.


The program is known as the Community Eligibility Provision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The 2015-16 school year marks the second year the program will be offered to all students attending all district schools.


What does this mean for my child?

All district students can receive a healthy “complete” breakfast and “complete” lunch at their school at no charge on school days throughout the school year. Any extra items such as an extra entrée or extra milk will continue to be an additional cost.


Your child can participate in the program without having to pay a fee or fill out a form. However, he or she will be assigned a number the first week of school (see below) and will need to enter that number for each meal.


What’s a complete meal?

Specific federal guidelines determine a complete meal. Several food options – meat/meat alternative, milk, fruit, vegetable and grain – are offered at each meal. Each student’s meal must consist of a certain number of these foods to be considered complete. Also, at breakfast a student must take a fruit offering and at lunch a student must take a fruit, vegetable or both for the meal to be considered complete.


Where does my child get a number?

Food Service staff people in each school will have identification numbers for each student that will be provided the first week of school. If your child gets to the register and forgets or doesn’t have a number, he or she can give their name to a staff member who will look it up.


Does my child still need to enter his or her number when going through the line?

Yes. We are required to account for the number of meals served and verify that every child participating received a complete meal. If you help your child memorize his or her lunch number, you will help us keep serving lines running smoothly.


For more information, contact School Lunch Director Lisa Finkenbinder at 475-6645.


Protection against discrimination

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities).


If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form (PDF), found online at, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or e-mail at


Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities and you wish to file either an EEO or program complaint please contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity employer.


Online payment for school meals now available

You can pay online for your child’s school meals and keep track of his or her account balance thanks to a new program being offered to City School District of Albany families. Through Parent Account Management Systems – or PayPAMS – you also can set up automatic payment plans, make single payments and get e-mail reminders if your child’s account balance is low.


There is no cost to register, browse the website and check your child’s account balance in this secure and convenient system. However, you will be charged a $1.95 service fee each time you make an online payment. Payments through PayPAMS go directly into your child’s meal account in the school cafeteria.


PayPAMS accepts Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit and debit cards for single payments to their child’s account and Mastercard and Discover for automatic payments.


Click on the highlighted text for a fact sheet on PayPAMS. You also can visit for more information or to sign up.


Quality nutrition, quality service, quality food

Did you know that students who are well nourished are shown to have increased problem-solving abilities, better memory, stronger verbal fluency and more creativity?

That is a key reason why the City School District of Albany makes every effort to provide students with nutritious and tasty meals during the hours they are in school. This includes breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon and, in some schools, an after-school snack serving during extended-day programs.


Nutri-Cafe provides complete nutritional, allergen information about all menu items

Whitsons Culinary Group, the City School District of Albany's food-service provider, provides a complete listing of nutritional information and allergen information for all the items on our school menus. Check out the Nutri-Cafe on the Whitsons Web site.


Payment policies

Each student is expected to pay for meals with cash or a debit account they may set up. The Board of Education encourages parents to assume the responsibility of paying for those meals. If parents are unable to pay, the board encourages them to complete the necessary paperwork for free or reduced-price meals (click here for more information).


The board also recognizes that a student occasionally comes to school without breakfast or lunch money and expects those students be treated with dignity and compassion. The board adopted guidelines for those students. Click here to read the full policy.


District fare includes local produce, hormone-free chicken and milk

Whitson's Culinary Group provides breakfast and lunch to all district schools.


Whitson's buys its produce locally whenever it is available. All milk and chicken products it offers are antibiotic- and hormone-free. Also, bread and bread products are 100 percent whole grain and contain no high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.


In addition:

  • Menus are subject to change

  • Prepaid meals are encouraged

  • Low-fat, chocolate and unflavored milk is available daily

  • We will offer a turkey equivalent when pork products are served

For more information, contact Stephanie Lasher, Whitson's onsite food service director, at 475-6644 or


Cafeterias post 'right to know' food allergy alerts

Food allergies can be life-threatening. To minimize the chance of accidental exposure to a food that may trigger an allergic reaction, the district's new food-service provider posts "right to know" information in every school cafeteria. The information -- kept in a binder -- lists ingredients in school food that are common causes of food allergies. They include:

  • Milk and milk products

  • Egg and egg products

  • Peanut and peanut products

  • Tree nut and tree nut products

  • Soy and soy products

  • Fish and fish products

  • Shellfish and shellfish products

The binder does not list manufacturers who also may process allergens (like peanuts) in other products they produce. However, Whitson's requires its manufacturers to have practices in place that minimize the possibility accidental contamination from other products during the manufacturing process.


Any student with a severe food allergy should NOT assume that a food is safe to eat and should always ask before eating cafeteria food. That student's parent or guardian should contact the food-service manager to discuss dietary needs and restrictions. Product specifications are subject to change and manufacturers are not required by law to provide updated ingredient declarations to Whitson's.


For more information, contact Stephanie Lasher, Whitson's onsite food service director, at 475-6644 or


Information regarding the use of pork and school meals

Food Services serves turkey-based cold cuts. The bologna, ham and salami are made from turkey; no pork products are added. Hot dogs are 100 percent beef. When pork is served we will offer a turkey equivalent as an alternate. When we serve real ham or hots with pork it will be reflected as such on the menu.


All hamburger and hot dog buns also are 100 percent whole grain.


Fast facts about our Food Service program

The City School District of Albany services approximately 2,000 breakfast and nearly 7,000 lunches every day.

The program is entirely self-supporting, meaning that the cost is fully covered by a combination of student fees and a la carte sales.

The following schools prepare their food in-house:

  • Albany High School

  • Albany School of Humanities (ASH)

  • Arbor Hill Elementary School

  • Giffen Memorial Elementary School

  • Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School

  • William S. Hackett Middle School

The following schools do not have their own kitchens. Students are served pre-packaged meals that are cooked each morning at Philip Livingston Magnet Academy.

  • Abrookin Career and Technical Center

  • Alternative Learning Center

  • Delaware Community School

  • Eagle Point Elementary School

  • Montessori Magnet School

  • New Scotland Elementary School

  • North Albany Academy

  • Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy

  • Pine Hills Elementary School

  • Sheridan Preparatory Academy

  • Thomas O'Brien Academy of Science and Technology



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