The district will provide free breakfast for students during the remaining 2022-2023 school year as a result of leftover money from COVID-19 relief funds.
Superintendent Jason Fine said he met with fellow administrators to propose the idea of the free breakfast program to the Board of Education and it was approved at the December meeting.
Fine added that the free breakfast program will cost around $80,000 for the rest of the 2022-2023 school year, and this money is being supplied from the federal government under the American Recovery Plan, which was originally part of the COVID-19 relief plan.
Director of Operations and Facilities Harley Williams said the district is not able to fund universal free lunch with the current revenue streams, but the free breakfast program aims to figure out whether the Board of Education should lower the threshold for who should be receiving free or price-reduced meals.
Food Service Director Julianna Carvi said that having a meal at the beginning of the day helps students start the day off positively.
“Breakfast gets food in their stomach, and studies show that students can’t think about what the teacher is talking about if they are hungry,” Carvi said.
Fine added students are more prepared for the school day after eating a nutritious breakfast, and having a free breakfast can help students feel secure with their peers and learning environment.
“Our discussions centered around topics of food security, the need to ensure all Bexley City Schools students have access to breakfast and lunch every day, and the recognition that food insecurity can hinder students academically, socially and emotionally,” Fine said. Carvi said students tend to feel more comfortable at their school when given a free meal, and it also gives them an opportunity to connect with their peers before going to class in the morning.
“It gets them into the building, so you don’t have tardiness problems, it gets them trusting the school as a safe place…studies show that schools where meals are served free, there is a higher level of trust in the community to the school,” she said.
Williams explained that there were families that weren’t qualifying for free or price-reduced meals, and the administration wanted to figure out a way to help them in the future, through either feeding everyone or increasing the threshold for the poverty line.
“We want students to be fed and ready for learning,” Williams said.
Williams said the school district’s budget is only so big, and they are working to find a point in which those who need free meals or price-reduced meals have access to them.
Braxton added that this pilot program will allow the district to collect important data, which helps provide more information about food security needs.
“Staff, administrators and community members gathered data, and found that there were still gaps and families or students with need,” Braxton said. “We wanted to make sure that we provided access for every student in the district, which is why the universal plan is so important.”
Braxton said he wants to make sure to eliminate any barriers that exist for every student in the district to obtain breakfast, especially from an equity and access standpoint.
“Providing universal free breakfast also helps to eliminate any stigma or shaming of students,” Braxton said.
Williams said he thinks more students will take advantage of the free meal, as there is not a stigma because it is offered to everyone.
Robbins explained students are able to have a free meal, which will help increase their sense of belonging as they don’t have to worry about paying for it.
“During COVID-19, for multiple years we had free breakfast and lunch, which was something that was government supported and many of our students took advantage of.