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Mountain Echo

Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Food for thought

School lunches are now free
Cider Ayala
Food for thought. Students enjoy their daily lunches – free for the second time.

Food is fuel: and it’s finally evident for students in the district.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) will allow all students in the district to receive a free breakfast and free lunch daily. 

The CEP is a reimbursement option for schools who wish to offer free meals to students in high poverty schools. This investment within the school district is a long awaited sigh of relief. Along with the 1.54 million students across the United States who cannot financially afford a school lunch, there’s about $78,983,604 in school meal debt per year in Pennsylvania. The number of food insecure children is about 437,340.

Sue Franks is the Director of Business Operations for the district. One of the responsibilities of Franks’ position is to oversee the food service operations. 

“When students can eat healthy meals, they are more likely to have energy to focus in their classrooms,” Franks said. “Making both breakfast and lunch free provides this opportunity to everyone.” 

The CEP is initially able to cover only four years of free lunch and breakfast; however, Franks and the other administrators are working to stretch the program beyond that. 

“We have been monitoring the CEP program for a number of years,” Franks said. “The pieces were able to fall into place late 2022 to early 2023. In April of 2023, we got permission to apply to the program.” 

The application to apply to the CEP was submitted in late April and was only approved just before the start of the upcoming school year. In addition, the program stretches out to all the schools districtwide, so elementary students can benefit from getting free meals every single day.

Jess Simonis is a Title I aide at Logan Elementary. Simonis helps monitor the students during their lunch period.

“I feel like this was the right thing to do. Many kids aren’t able to eat breakfast or pack a healthy lunch because of their families’ income. At a young age, it’s important for them to get what they need. It’s nice that the schools are able to give that to them this year,” Simonis said. 

Additional meals or a la carte items will still be available at regular prices.

“I think the program will be a great benefit to all students,” Franks said. “We are already seeing an increase in breakfast and lunch participation. We like to encourage all the students to enjoy the food the school provides.”

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About the Contributors
Makenzie Closson, Associate Editor
My name is Makenzie Closson. I am a second year member of the Mountain Echo and Horseshoe yearbook staffs. Last year, I became a PSPA finalist and even won first in the state for yearbook copy writing. Besides just being involved in the publications, I'm a competitive dancer. I also enjoy playing my guitar, creating art and film making. After high school, I plan to attend a film school to become a director.
Cider Ayala, Associate Editor
I am in my third year of working on the Mountain Echo publication staff. I am a junior and an associate editor this year. I focus on opinion based writing and work on a blog all about dealing with change. I am hoping to also make a podcast this year with a friend on staff. Outside of journalism, writing is a big part of my life. I love reading and writing poetry, and I want to be a technical writer someday. I also enjoy listening to music, playing with my two bulldogs, and spending time with my friends.

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