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Manitowoc Superintendent faces backlash after ending free lunch program

Posted at 5:37 PM, Oct 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-05 17:02:53-04
  • Manitowoc Schools were given free lunches last year through the Community Eligibility Provision. This year, Superintendent Jim Feil ended the program.
  • Superintendent Feil said that the program helped through Covid and now it is time to go back to normal. The school will still provide free and reduced lunches to those who qualify.
  • Concerned mother, Stacey Eck, says she doesn't understand why the schools can't continue to help struggling families.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)
The Community Eligibility Provision or C-E-P is a program that provides schools with low income areas free lunches. I'm your neighborhood reporter Preston Stober. All families in the Manitowoc school district were beneficiaries of this program last school year. This year, however, superintendent Jim Feil decided to opt out. This left many people in the community questioning the decision.

"We're looking at a community with a very high level of families who are struggling," said conerned mother Stacey Eck. "If we can provide a basic need of food to these families, why would we not do that?"

Superintendent Jim Feil says that while the program was useful during Covid, it is time for Manitowoc schools to go back to normal.

"We shouldn't be taking money that we legitimately make a case for just because it might be convenient or easy for us, or somebody is dangling more money at you," the superintendent said.

The school will still have free and reduced lunches for certain families based on factors such as income and number of children, but the families will have to opt in and Stacy Eck is concerned for families that fall just outside of the requirements.

"I think what we don't know is how many families fall right about that threshold and my guess is there is probably a lot of families that are there," said Eck. "So, they are not going to get any help."

According to the Superintendent, in order to be eligible, a household income would need to be between $19,000 and $93,000 based on the amount of children in the family.

By opting out of CEP and free lunches for all, this is not money that the school can use elsewhere and Eck says that local taxpayers are going to help fund CEP regardless if Manitowoc schools opt in or not.

But Feil maintains that parents that can pay for their child's meals, should pay.

"You know I could've just said, 'I'll take the federal money and just feed everybody'. But I don't know that that would be beneficial," Superintendent Feil said. "I'm almost enabling a parent to not be responsible, and I don't know that that's good.”

Superintendent Jim Feil told me around 56% of students will fall into the free and reduced lunch category if they opt in. The rest will have to pay for their meals.