PERRYSBURG – Penta Career Center is continuing to provide free meals to students.
Food service Supervisor Kelsey Frazier provided her annual report to the school board at its Nov. 9 meeting. She said the district is “doing what’s right” by continuing to offer free meals to students.
For the last two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered a free school meals program, but canceled that program for the start of this school year.
Frazier said the kitchen serves approximately 440 breakfasts and 1,050 lunches each day.
She said the free meals eliminate cost barriers for students and offer an incentive to eat, eliminate monthly delinquency collections and provide peace of mind to students.
She said 940 students have filled out the free and reduced meals applications, which allows reimbursement to the district for those meals.
Frazier said 33% of Penta’s students qualify, and her department has made phone calls and has sent emails and letters to encourage families to sign up.
Changes this year include a digital menu on new TV screens, a made-to-order deli and a condiment station. The cafeteria provides three hot options and three cold options every day, Frazier said.
Superintendent Ed Ewers asked if there has been a change in the number of students eating lunch now that it is free.
Frazier said the numbers are always highest in August and September and then start to taper, but she hasn’t seen that year.
She said the about 15 districts in the state are doing this.
Ewers said it is a positive for students and staff.
“That idea of not having that stress of collecting delinquent accounts and a kid being put in a position of having no money … they can now focus on what is happening in their labs and their classrooms,” Ewers said.
Frazier said that food and supply costs are up roughly 15%, and she doesn’t foresee supply chain normalization until the end of 2023.