Summer food program happening at Muhlenberg

MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - Underprivileged children will indeed be able to receive free breakfast and lunch from the Muhlenberg School District this summer.

The Muhlenberg School Board voted 7-2 during its regular meeting Wednesday evening to pass the summer food service pilot program with the final vote, a yes, coming from Cindy Mengle after a sharp, but pensive inhale.

The votes came after hearing from audience members wishing to address the board.

Muhlenberg 10th grade student Katelyn Huey made a heartfelt plea to encourage a "yes" vote and encouraging compassion by sharing that she sees "kids every day at lunch who don't eat" because they are unable to afford food.

Huey was met with a round of applause from the board and the public in attendance.

Board Vice President Jacklyn Russnock commended the student on her confidence in addressing the board.

"You are a testament to the fact we are teaching you the right thing," Russnock said to Huey prior to her "yes" vote.

Daphne Klar, the executive director of the Reading Recreation Commission, addressed the board to combat community concerns that the program would be abused by Reading School District children attempting to gain access to the meals.

She explained that, with the commission's food program, "we don't ask for a school card at the door. We feed kids because it's the right thing to do." She added that this includes kids from the Muhlenberg School District.

Superintendent Joseph Macharola, a supporter of the program, indicated there was one item he wanted to clear up.

"Muhlenberg School District cares about children everywhere. Doesn't matter where you're from," he said.

Board member Mark Nelson, a decidedly "no" voter in previous discussions, ended up voting in favor of the program.

"At the end of the day, people need to remember the program is a federal program," he said.

The two "no" votes came from board members Thomas Gross and J. Tony Lupia Jr. Prior to the vote, Lupia explained why he would be voting as such by quoting Benjamin Franklin.

"I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it," Lupia said.

The program was presented to the board last year, but ultimately voted down. The pilot is funded through state grants received by the district in reimbursements.

Other issues addressed at the meeting included votes on areas of personnel, finance and transportation.

The school board will meet again for a committee of the whole meeting on May 3.

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