The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Ironwood to provide free lunch for all students


September 1, 2018

Richard Jenkins / Daily Globe

TONY BUNT'S Ironwood classroom is empty Friday, but will soon be full of students as the school year starts Tuesday.

IRONWOOD - Students in the Ironwood Area Schools won't have to worry about forgetting their lunch money after the district announced it will provide free lunches to all students for the year.

The lunches are available through the federal Community Eligibility Provision program, which started in 2011 in Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky, and has since launched nationally. The program uses a formula based on the number of free and reduced lunch students in a district.

Ironwood became eligible for the program because of changes in how Medicare participants qualify for free and reduced lunches, according to the district's announcement of the free lunches.

"After all the complicated math and spread sheets, it turns out we can offer free lunch for all of our students - free lunch and breakfast - at no cost to the district and no cost to the parents because of this federal program," Ironwood Superintendent Travis Powell told the Daily Globe.

While this year will be the first the district offers free lunches, Food Service Director Mary Hampston Kusz said it has offered free breakfasts to students for the past 10 years.

Hampston Kusz researched the program at a recent state conference, receiving "nothing but positive comments and information." Powell said the move will not only help the students, but reduce the economic burden for district families.

"There were many examples of families that were coming to register for school lunch (at the district's Back to School Fair Monday), and then when they learned they were not going to have this expense this year, they expressed tremendous relief," Powell said.

While the program means families won't need to apply for free or reduced lunches this year, Powell said there is a survey they need to fill out. The survey takes the place of the previous application and impacts the funding the district gets for various programs.

Students will take the surveys home during the first week of school, according to the district's announcement.

While the district will reassess the program after the school year to ensure it is functioning as expected, Powell said he expects to continue with it for future years. "This way, we aren't locked into a four, or five-year (agreement) if it doesn't work," Powell said.

While the lunches are free to all students, Powell said they will still have to pay for seconds or any of the a la carte items sold during lunch.

"That's additional and beyond what the school lunch program (offers)," Powell said.


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