KOLD INVESTIGATES: School lunch debt causing problems for southern Arizona’s biggest district
TUCSON, AZ – No one wants a child to go hungry, especially the food services teams working in school districts across the country. “You don’t want to take food away from a child,” said Lindsay Aguilar, RD, SNS, and Administrative Dietitian-Coordinator for Food Services at Tucson Unified School District. The policy for Tucson Unified School District is to provide everyone with a meal, unless a parent or guardian notifies the school not to feed the student. If an account hasn’t been settled by the end of the school year, the district pays for it. A spokesperson for the district shared the following statement: “Per ADE guidelines, Sunnyside covers the remaining debt using non-federal funds through other revenue sources such as District cafeteria income, catering, and other non-federally reimbursed meals served.” “The Marana Unified School District Food Service is committed to student health and nutrition and to maintaining a responsible financial approach.” TUSD, southern Arizona’s largest school district by a long shot, also had the largest lunch debt. TUSD used auxiliary funds, the district’s rainy day money, to pay off last school year’s debt. School administrators receive cash or check donations for lunch debt, usually from community members with a particular connection to a school, according to Aguilar. School lunch debt donations are tax deductible but they do not qualify for the AZ State Tax Credit program. What will likely be half a million dollars in two school years, Stegeman said the district needs to be accountable. A school lunch shaming bill didn’t make it through the Arizona State Legislature.
3rd grader pays school lunch debt of classmates with his allowance
Ryan Kyote would normally have spent his money on baseball cards or new ballet slippers, his mother Kylie Kirkpatrick told USA TODAY on Thursday. One morning while eating breakfast he heard on the news that a little girl in Indiana was forced to return her hot lunch after learning she didn’t have enough money in her student account. Kirkpatrick remembers Ryan asking “How can a five-year-old owe a school money?”. She called West Park Elementary School in Napa, California to find out the district’s policies on school lunches. Although the school doesn’t turn away students who can’t pay for school lunches, Kirkpatrick discovered students can accrue debt that is then billed to their parents at the end of the year. School district changes decision to give kids with lunch debt jelly sandwiches. Chobani pays off student lunch debt for an Idaho school district. She relayed the information to Ryan after he got home from school, along with the fact that his own classmates in the third grade owed $74.50 in lunch debts. They also praised Ryan’s actions, with de Blasio calling him “One heck of a noble kid.” Napa Valley Unified School District confirmed that West Park Elementary School received Ryan’s donation to the third grade class and appreciates his support to the lunch program. “The district is grateful for his compassion and he should be proud of his act of kindness,” NUVSD spokesperson Stacy Rollo told USA TODAY on Friday. Ryan’s mom says he’s touched by all the attention and looks up to other donors eliminating lunch debt for other schools, such as Chobani’s $85,000 contribution to a school district in Idaho.
Seattle parent pays off $21K school-lunch debt with GoFundMe campaign
Seattle parent Jeff Lew wanted to make sure that no student would feel singled out or be bullied because of meal debt at his son’s elementary school, where students owed $97.10. In Marysville, a couple last week paid off the $5,495 debt for the district’s 10 elementary schools. On Tuesday, Lew also created campaigns for students in the Renton and Tacoma school districts. In Seattle, about 3,700 students now owe the $21,468 for school meals. In the past, other Puget Sound school districts have been accused of lunch-shaming. In 2014, a Kent middle-school student’s lunch was taken from him and thrown out because his lunch account was 26 cents short. For two weeks in 2008, the Edmonds School District took away hot lunches from students who owed $10 or more before the district suspended the policy. On Lew’s GoFundMe page, donors reported that they had felt embarrassed when they were in school, and weren’t able to afford the same food as classmates. The extra money will go into a fund that will cover future debts that students may rack up through the end of the school year. In Marysville, Thomas and Christy Lee, who are both retired from Boeing, originally planned to pay just the debt at Kellogg Marsh Elementary, where their son attended school. They got the idea to pay off the debt after hearing stories from friends who work in schools, and told them about students who couldn’t pay for lunches and would only get a cold cheese sandwich. Their grandsons go to Kent Prairie Elementary in Arlington, so on Monday, they called the school and asked the amount of that school’s debt, which was $237.38.
Boy, 8, makes, sells keychains to help pay off classmates’ lunch debt
Keoni Ching, an 8-year-old at Vancouver’s Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, is selling keychains made of lettered beads to pay off his classmates’ outstanding balances on their lunch accounts. Keoni is a Dolphins fan, his mom, April Ching, said. A national spotlight has turned toward lunch debt in recent years. In Washington, a 2018 change to state law requires school districts to feed students a hot meal, regardless of whether they have money in their lunch accounts. While school nutrition directors agree that all students should be fed, the effect is that school districts can rack up thousands of dollars in unpaid meals by the end of the school year. Wealthy donors and corporations have cut large checks to districts across the country to ease the strain – and small donors, like little Keoni. Franklin Elementary School this month will celebrate its Fourth Annual Kindness Week, a celebration of all things nice at the Vancouver Public Schools campus. Keoni, who’s enrolled in the school’s Mandarin immersion program, was brainstorming projects for the week with his family last month. Sherman made $27,000 worth of donations in November to districts in Washington and California to pay off students’ lunch debt. ” ‘Everyone at the school is my friend, and I want to pay off their lunch ticket. April Ching has been offering plenty of help to her son along the way, stamping letters on wooden blocks, tying knots too tough for Keoni and purchasing boxes on boxes of charms. Most overwhelming has been those who tell her they’re supporting him because they were once that kid who couldn’t afford school lunch.
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