News School Lunch Debt
School lunch shaming: Inside America’s hidden debt crisis
He’s learned two key truths: Just about every kid loves pizza, and an alarming number of American youngsters still can’t afford a $2.35 lunch, despite the dramatic expansion of free and reduced lunch programs. It happens across the country: 76% of America’s school districts have kids with school lunch debt, according to the School Nutrition Association. Last year, a Pennsylvania lunch lady quit in protest after being forced to take food away from a student who was $25 in debt. Last month, New Mexico banned any form of lunch shaming. He posted a video on GoFundMe, a fundraising website, asking for donations to pay off student lunch debt.
There are 30 GoFundMe campaigns to raise money specifically to pay off school lunch debts so students can get hot meals. Schools resort to cheese-sandwich shaming to get lunch debts paid off because they have to fork over the money at the end of the year to cover whatever debt parents don’t pay. When Antignolo arrived at the Lamar district in 2013, there was over $180,000 in unpaid school lunch debt that year. His efforts appear to be working: School lunch debt has fallen to about $61,000 this year. The fact that some districts are racking up $4.7 million in unpaid school lunch debt signals that something is still very wrong.
The Trump administration has proposed a massive cut of 21% to the USDA’s budget, but it’s unlikely school lunch funding will be impacted since it’s considered an entitlement program. Enacted in 2010, CEP gives free lunches to every student in a school where at least 40% of the families are extremely poor and automatically qualify for government aid.
North Texas Church Pays Off Entire District’s School Lunch Debt
Every Christmas, the congregation of the Royse City First United Methodist Church donates its Christmas Eve offerings to charity. Last year, half of the donations went to a nonprofit and the other half to an elementary school down the street, to help cover the cost of school lunches for families thrat had fallen behind in payments. That was Christmas 2017.The following year, Pastor Chris Everson went to the church board to ask about taking the tradition a step further. Last fall, he asked the congregation to think about what they would spend on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and then set aside that amount to help other families in the community. Adi Bryant, Royse City ISD’s chief communications officer, said the church quietly handed over a check around Christmas.
Bryant told NBC 5 around 40 percent of the district’s roughly 6,000 students receive free or reduced price lunches as part of the National School Lunch Program. It’s unclear how many additional families are just outside that threshold, but still struggle to pay for school lunch. When a student is $25 or more past due, the student still receives a meal of a turkey or ham sandwich, a piece of fruit and milk. The church’s donation paid off debts for students who are $20 or more behind in payments. The district said the church paid debts for 226 families totaling around $6,000.
The rest of the donation money is set aside to help students for the rest of the school year. At Monday night’s Royse City ISD school board meeting, the district thanked Everson and the Royse City First United Methodist Church congregation for identifying a need and filling it.
What Happens to Students School-Lunch Bills Go Unpaid?
To strike a compromise, many districts establish policies to feed students unable to pay for a hot school meal. In the SNA survey, a majority of districts had either a formal policy or informal procedure for students who lack the funds to pay for breakfast or lunch. What’s not so easily measured is the underlying stigma associated with receiving free or reduced-price meals that might force some families to opt out of the assistance. While tossing food is not a preferred method, alternatives can be equally tricky. Substitute meals, which some districts use as a compromise, can also earn condemnation from students.
On the defensive, the district superintendent countered that Kokomo School Corporation had more than $50,000 in delinquent meal fees last year, and the new policy was consistent with neighboring districts. Understanding the impact of these responses to nonpayment is especially important given how many children suffer from food insecurity. Similar findings on child hunger have led some urban school districts with large numbers of low-income families-including Boston, Chicago, and Baltimore-to bypass the bookkeeping and provide free breakfast and lunch to all students regardless of financial means. The programs, which are subsidized by the USDA’s Community Eligibility Program, replace cafeteria checkout lines and the angst of overdrawn lunch accounts with universal free breakfast and lunch. The federal program also helps prevent the side effects of hunger on education, which research shows can interfere with physical and cognitive skills, from strength and coordination to concentration and problem-solving.
U.S. Army veteran facing collection agency over kids’ lunch money
SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – A local veteran facing a collection agency over unpaid school lunches for his three children is now receiving assistance from the Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs thanks to a Call 6 investigation. Now a collection agency is seeking repayment of $562 on behalf of Shelbyville Central Schools. The amount stems from unpaid school lunches for White’s three children, who attend schools in the district. The school district declined to comment on White’s case, citing federal privacy rules. Federal law states the debt must be paid by parents or the school system.
The VA hospital also connected White with resources to reduce their cable bill, which is needed for the kids’ school assignments. A: Lunch debt occurs at the local level with local districts and schools. Please note, the food service cannot forgive the debt but the school corporation could pay the debt for the household if they felt they were in error. Is since July 2017 USDA has required school corporations who participate in School Nutrition Programs to have a written policy on unpaid meal charges and they are required to send this policy to all households within the school corporation. A: We encourage schools to be constant in making parents aware of the free or reduced lunch program.
All school are required to conduct Direct Certification a minimum of 3 times during a school year, one of those being before they send out information on how to fill out an application. The school then notifies the household their child/children are eligible to receive free meals based on Direct Certification.