All students in Mansfield City Schools will have access to free lunches during the 2018-2019 school year, regardless of family income level.
The Board of Education on Tuesday approved the district’s participation in the Ohio Department of Education’s community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program. That 5-0 vote formally authorized food service manager Lauren Ellsworth to submit the required application to have the program in place by the first day of school on Aug. 23. All students already are eligible for free breakfasts at their respective schools.
A statement issued by ODE said school food service programs on CEP have less administrative burden – no longer the need to verify income for free or reduced-price lunches – which streamlines the school meal program documentation process. Documentation yields per-meal reimbursement from the federal government. ODE said the program also boosts student participation in breakfast and lunch.
Ellsworth, who was at Tuesday’s board meeting, said afterward there is another important advantage to free lunches under CEP. “It removes the stigma for a student who doesn’t have money for lunch on a particular day,” she said. “On those occasions current policy calls for the student to receive an alternative lunch, which includes a sandwich.”
Treasurer Robert Kuehnle said the move to completely free lunches will cost the food service department about $18,000 and the district’s general fund an estimated $23,000. However, he said, much of the general fund cost would be offset if the free-lunch policy helps to attract a minimum of eight students to the district.
Ellsworth said she expects much of the food service cost will be recouped by increased student lunch participation, which in turn would result in increased federal reimbursement.
Board member Renda Cline commended Ellsworth and Kuehnle for their work in implementing CEP. “This is important,” she said. “Too often the burden of poverty falls on children. Students cannot do their best if they are hungry. I am very glad to see us doing this.”
The CEP program is authorized for up to four consecutive years.
In other action, the board:
The board’s next scheduled meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on May 15 at the Raemelton administration building. It will be preceded by a reception for district retirees.
In the photo above, food service manager Lauren Ellsworth and assistant manager Erin Mudra begin planning for free lunches for all students starting in August.
Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools