Conneaut School District already has a free breakfast and lunch program in place. What about dinner?

The district is currently working on an application for providing after-school dinner through U.S. Department of Agriculture's Child and Adult Care Food Program. District Business Manager Greg Mayle brought the program up at this month's school board work session. The school board previously approved a request for the district to apply.

"We’re hoping to hear back by the end of the month on that (dinner) program," Mayle said in an interview. "That would be my hope to get approval, get a plan in place and get going with it sometime later in the fall or early in the winter."

Mayle said the board was "very much in favor" of the dinner program as it dovetails Conneaut's participation in the state's Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which offers free breakfast and lunch for all students regardless of economic status. The school district is eligible because 45.5 percent of students were certified for free meals in the district. That figure is above the 40 percent minimum.

If approved by the USDA, The Nutrition Group would provide meals for the program, and current staff would provide labor needs. Mayle also highlighted the flexibility of the after-school dinner program, emphasizing meals can be served at different times, in different buildings and at different times of the year.

"For example, a musical practice might have a different time than a sports practice and being able to offer that to all the kids is a huge advantage," Mayle said. "We can even look at things when sports teams are traveling or the band is traveling to another site. We can look at options for supplying a dinner to them to eat on the bus on the way. It should be a really good thing for the district going forward."

Northwestern School District in Albion provides the after-school dinner program as well as the CEP at the elementary level, Mayle said. Other Erie County districts provide the CEP at all grade levels, he said.

As for the status of the CEP at Conneaut, Mayle said the increase in meals served to students has been "very steady and very strong." The board approved the program in June, and it began this school year.

"Already, within the first couple weeks, we had double the amount of meals being served as the same time last year," Mayle said. "We still have a ways to go in terms of where we want to be, but the increases at the start of the year have been encouraging."

He also said the district hoped to reach 70 to 75 percent participation in both breakfast and lunch, mentioning that lunch was getting close to such figures. Ultimately, whether the dinner program joins the district's offerings is down to federal approval.

"It makes sense to offer a free dinner for anyone having to stay after school," Mayle said. "It’s a win-win for the district. It’s just quite a long application process, and we’re stuck in the middle of it right now."

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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