The Best Type of Takeout During COVID: Free Takeout

The Department of Education’s community meals program offers free meals to all New Yorkers.

By: Alan Gregory

The DOE lunches include a variety of food in every basic food group. Photo Credit: Alan Gregory

For the past few months, I’ve been eating the same public school lunches I ate from my first day of first grade to my last day of high school. 

Although I would not call the food restaurant quality, it is tasty, nutritious, and has saved my family from many costly trips to the grocery store. Not to mention, there is something a bit nostalgic about eating one of those Jamaican beef patties.

It is relatively easy to kick the lunches up a notch in your at-home kitchen. A meal I have eaten frequently for the past few months has been the DOE’s black bean burrito. I open up the tortilla and refry the filling in some oil, then add a combination of spices.

The DOE has been consistently distributing free meals throughout the pandemic. This program has been crucial to my family through the last few months of reduced work hours, tuition payments, and surprise medical bills.

These meals are available on weekdays to any current New York public school students and their families (this does not include CUNY students). Pickup for any public school attendee is held from 9 a.m to 12 p.m, as well as being available for community members between 3 and 5 p.m. 

Pickup protocol may vary from location to location. To pick up lunches, I visit Curtis Highschool. The entrance for pickup is on the side of the school. When entering, there are tables set up with six insulated bags full of meals. 

Typically, one person at a time can come up to and take from each bag. Each bag has a different kind of bagged meal and you can take multiple at a time. Staff members overview meal pick up to monitor if any bags need to be refilled. 

Vegetarian options are offered at all pickup locations, while Kosher and Halal options are offered at a few in every borough. 

For more information, a full map of participating locations, visit:

Categories: Lifestyles, Specials

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