Thursday, January 23, 2020
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Santas, some secret, pay off student meal balances

The executive in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, said the county would pay off any outstanding meal balances public school students had incurred, the Capital Gazette reports.

About 30 percent of the students in the county’s public school are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, County Executive Steve Schuh’s office said in a press release. But, “there is a great need,” he was quoted as saying.

The expenditure, expected to send about $25,000 to the school system via the 21st Century Education Foundation, will reset all meal balances that now have negative balances.

Similar need can be found in schools across the country, even with many students being eligible for a reduction in lunch prices based on their families’ income.

In a letter today to the editors of the Charlotte Sun, Debra Bridson in Port Charlotte, Florida, asks her fellow citizens to consider making a personal donation to help pay off students’ lunch debt.

“For many of us, a $2 or $3 lunch isn’t much of an imposition,” she writes. “But even with reduced-price lunch programs at schools, those prices can still feel like a burden to struggling families. And when parents fall behind on cafeteria debts, students can suffer.”

The district has led the way in making sure students get healthy meals without being made to feel ashamed that they’re eligible for a price reduction. “The dedicated staff work to serve healthy meals to as many students as possible and never is a student denied a meal,” she writes.

KFOR-TV reported that the Moore Public School District announced that an anonymous donor had paid off all current school lunch charges at Moore High School, donating a little more than $700 to reset them all to zero.

“It took a lot not to cry because it means a lot to the families of the kids that these kids can’t eat because they’re at their limit, so they have to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To know that they can have an actual warm meal today meant a lot to us,” the station quoted Suzanne Guthmiller of the Moore Public Schools as saying.

Unlike the Florida district, Moore High School has to follow a board policy, the station noted, whereby students who have reached their limit at lunch are denied a healthy meal.

Happy holidays indeed!

Finally, the negative balances at O’Fallon Township District 90 in Southern Illinois have also been reset to zero, thanks to generous donors, according to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat.

“School lunch programs provide students healthy lunches while showing them the components of a balanced meal,” the paper quoted District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby as saying. “Research on student achievement very clearly shows the importance of good nutrition on the ability to learn.”

A few dozen students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunches in the district, have experienced trouble paying their lunch bills, the district said. A group of families, known as the “Lunch Bunch,” has been donating money, about $200 every month, since March to help pay off students’ meal debt.

“In our district, every child can get a meal, regardless of whether their lunch account balance is negative or not,” according to Patty Cavins, the district’s business manager. “We don’t want anyone going hungry.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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