By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, LESTER PRAIRIE, MNSchool lunches have been in the news since Governor Mark Dayton released a statement Tuesday proposing additional funding to ensure every child has access to a nutritious lunch in Minnesota schools.
However, local school districts already have systems in place under which they work with families to ensure no student has to go without lunch.
Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District states in its policy that parents will be notified when a student’s lunch account reaches $10 or less.
The parents are sent an e-mail, and written notice. When the lunch account continues to be delinquent, parents will receive a phone call from the food service director, informing of the delinquent lunch account.
HLWW policy states that “if the family account does not have sufficient funds to pay for lunch, all students in the family will be allowed to charge their meal for that day.”
“Although the policy states that students may be denied lunch if their account is insufficient, I can’t remember the last time we denied a student lunch,” HLWW Food Service Manager Michelle Johnson said. “Nobody can remember the last time; that’s how long ago it was.”
“We will make every attempt to work with families who need assistance,” HLWW Superintendent Brad Sellner said. “Students will receive their meal, and we will call the parents to make an arrangement.”
Arrangements in the past have included sending a form for reduced or free lunch to the family, waiting a week or two until the parents get their paychecks, or reminding students who have forgotten their lunch money.
The cost for lunch each day is $1.85 for kindergarten-eighth grade students; and $2.10 for ninth-12th grade students.
Lester Prairie Public School District has an automatic notification system, called Lite Lunch, that sends an e-mail to parents when a student’s lunch account balance is less than $10.
“We also send a notice on Mondays via the mail to families with a negative balance,” Lester Prairie Superintendent Mike McNulty stated.
After two notices have been sent, if the student is not qualified under the free or reduced lunch category, lunch will not be provided until the account is settled.
“We do not have much of an issue here,” McNulty commented.
The cost for lunch each day is $1.95 for elementary students; and secondary students pay $2.45.
“Let them eat” is the policy at Holy Trinity School in Winsted, regarding delinquent lunch accounts, according to Food Supervisor Fran Dahl.
In the event of a student’s lunch account becoming delinquent, staff will e-mail parents weekly.
When the account is not resolved after two weeks of e-mail notifications, the parents will receive a phone call regarding the delinquent account, and voice mail if they do not answer.
If a student’s lunch account balance is more than $30 negative, the student will be given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, along with milk, until the delinquent account is resolved.
The cost for lunch each day is $2.35 per student in all grades; and $3.35 for adults eating lunch.
The governor’s statement
Forty-six Minnesota school districts have policies denying students access to a nutritious lunch if there are not sufficient funds in the student’s lunch account, according to a report recently released from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.
“No child should be denied a healthy lunch,” Dayton commented in the statement.
“I urge all school districts to work with their food service directors to find ways to ensure children are never turned away from receiving a hot meal,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius wrote in a letter directed to all Minnesota school districts. “As you know, for too many of our children, school may be the only nutritious meal they receive.”
Dayton committed to include an item in the budget proposal for an additional $3.5 million to ensure that no student in Minnesota is denied a hot meal during school lunch.