MAPS to serve lunch on half days

MANISTEE — A well fed student is usually the one that succeeds academically in the classroom.

The Manistee Area Public Schools are taking steps to make sure every child gets access to the lunch program even on days when they are in session for only half the school day.

The Manistee Area Public Schools are taking steps to make sure every child gets access to the lunch program even on days when they are in session for only half the school day.

For quite a few county students the food they receive at school through the lunch and breakfast programs makes up the bulk of their nutritional intake during a day. However, as the number of half days of instruction increase for teacher professional development and other reasons, some area students weren’t always getting their lunch before leaving school.

Manistee Area Public Schools food service director Keri Carlson said a memorandum has been issued by the Michigan Department of Education that gives students access to lunch on partial instructional days during the school year, and how that can be included as instructional time.

Carlson said not serving lunch on a half day has been a problem in the past at MAPS.

“I know years ago (former food service director) Kathy (Gutowski) had shared some concerns about it after we started ending up with nine and 10 half days some years, which is substantial,” said Carlson. “When they happen on Friday a few of these kids go home and don’t get a lot to eat Saturday or Sunday which is a long time.”

That is why the MDE recently began encouraging school districts and food service managers to work out ways where all children have access to a lunch on a half-day of school including doing it as instructional time.

MDE has requirements for it to qualify as  instructional time including:

• Lunch served on a half-day in a classroom to some or all students while a certified teacher is providing instruction;

• Lunch is served on a half day during a homeroom period which is not more that 15 minutes in length; and

• A group of students did not receive a lunch period

“At Jefferson and Kennedy Elementary schools I put out a Google Document to the teachers to see how many students are interested in eating lunch on those days,” said Carlson. “What we do is pack a cold lunch and it isn’t necessarily a sack lunch, as it is generally on a styrofoam tray.”

Carlson said the benefits are threefold as  the staff gets to work those days, the kids get fed and MDE includes it in instructional time.

“We can do it in a lot of ways and we can do it a lot like we do with breakfast in the classroom, so it can get counted as instructional time and the kids get a meal, so everyone wins that way,” said Carlson. “A lot of districts around the state do not serve on half days, but we do. We also make a point with our Great Start Readiness Program that is held at Madison Elementary that when we have a half day we just deliver their food early and they get a regular meal on that day.”

However, Carlson pointed out that on half days when they do have a lesser amount of students taking the lunch, but she hopes that number will grow as more parents and students become educated about it.

“We do see a lot of parents that will pick up their kids on half days or at the middle/high school a lot of these kids drive and they will leave with their friends, but at least they are getting the opportunity to eat,” said Carlson. “On a regular day at Kennedy Elementary we would serve about 220-230 kids and on half days we serve about 120 kids. We are hoping to see that number grow in size.”

Carlson pointed out that they also satellite meals out to other places like CASMAN Academy and FiveCAP so on those half days her staff is already there working on those meals.

“So we encourage participation from students in our buildings on those days, because we are here working anyway,” said Carlson. “If they include the lunch in the instructional time we encourage our kids to take advantage of it. Here at the middle/high school we will let out early on those half days so kids can come down and eat it in the commons area. So at this location we don’t offer the cold lunch and will have things like pizza, hot sandwich, so it is just like a regular day.”

Tim Klenow who is the food service director for the Kaleva Norman Dickson, Bear Lake and Onekama School districts said lunch in his buildings on half days has always been a priority.

“We have always given lunch to the students on half days,” said Klenow. “I can’t think of any reasons not to.”

Klenow said following that pattern also helps the district’s lunch count numbers for state reimbursement. Two of his districts have very high free and reduced breakfast and lunch numbers.

“It’s a win-win,” said Klenow. “We of course get the reimbursement to help with labor costs and more importantly, the students won’t go home hungry after school.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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