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Alcona schools offer free breakfast, lunch

By JULIE GOLDBERG

News Staff Writer

LINCOLN — Every Alcona Community Schools student will be able to eat breakfast and lunch for free for the next three years.

The school district recently announced it can provide free breakfast and lunch for every student through the Community Eligibility Provision program, which helps school districts in low-income areas.

District Superintendent Dan O’Connor said the program is for districts whose free and reduced-price lunch numbers are close to a break-even point that would allow the district to offer free lunch for every student.

O’Connor said that, after crunching some numbers, the district knew it was close to the break-even point. He said the district then had to figure out how to make the program work.

Districts get reimbursed by the federal government for the number of students who are in the free and reduced price lunch program. In the 2018-19 school year, 60.5% of Alcona’s 686 students had free lunch, while 7.1% had reduced-price lunch.

“We weren’t biting off too big of a risk, it was going to be well worth it for our kids and community to be able to go for free breakfast and free lunch for all,” O’Connor said. “Once we crunched the numbers based on reimbursement rates from the federal government, we felt like it was a worthwhile risk to take.”

Nick Cordes, Alcona food service director, recently attended a food service director “boot camp” through the Michigan Department of Education, where he learned how the district can offer free breakfast and lunch for the students.

“We walked out of there feeling like it was something we definitely needed to take advantage of heading into this school year,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said the district Board of Education was extremely supportive of the decision and excited for the opportunity for kids. He said it’s a big deal for almost 700 students to not have to worry about getting a meal and for the families who are trying to make everything work.

“We feel like it’s a tremendous opportunity for our community,” he said.

Cordes said having breakfast and lunch available allows for parents to not worry about having to make their child lunch or worry about their child not eating breakfast before going to school.

“It’s important for students to be able to get a nutritional meal,” Cordes said.

The district now has to submit household information reports from parents so it can receive grants, Cordes said. He said that’s still important information because that can help the district receive grants from federal sources.

Alcona had free breakfast and lunch for students eight years ago, but O’Connor said that was only for one year. This time around, it’s a guaranteed three-year program for the district.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.