Rest assured, your child’s school lunch will not be taken away from her and tossed in the trash if her school lunch account is delinquent.
Delinquent school lunch accounts isn’t breaking news, but an incident that transpired in Salt Lake City back on January 29 made national headlines after school workers seized the school lunches of about 30 students whose lunch accounts were overdue and dumped them in the trash.
In light of the incident, Director of Food Services for the Old Rochester Regional School District Caitlin Meagher responded to The Wanderer’s inquiry regarding the school lunch account policy, and offered some clarity on the district’s procedure for handling overdue accounts.
“I understand the importance of controlling debt, it is a conversation that we have been having in this district for some time,” stated Meagher in an email in which she responded to questions about her response to the Salt Lake City incident.
“However, I think that any time a new system or procedure is implemented, the community needs appropriate communication and time to prepare for the change,” said Meagher. “It seems as though there was poor communication and little time for families to pay the debt that had accrued.”
There are delinquent accounts in the ORR School District – exactly 324 as of February 10, with 54 in Marion, 44 in Mattapoisett, 35 in Rochester, and 191 at ORR – all together totaling over $2,400. The average account is overdrawn by $13, $10, $9, and $4 respectively.
When an account is delinquent, parents receive an email from the district’s point of sale system, Nutrikids, an online school lunch account system which allows parents to create an account and prepay for school lunches by making a deposit. Meagher generates weekly emails from Nutrikids alerting parents if the account has been overdrawn.
“If the debt continues to grow, we will try mailing letters or making phone calls,” stated Meagher.
Students in grades 7- 12 are allowed to charge up to three meals, at which point the students can no longer purchase further school lunches until the account is paid off. During that time, students are offered a peanut butter sandwich and milk for 50 cents, according to Meagher. A regular school lunch costs $2.75 in grades 7 – 12 and $2.50 at the elementary schools.
Meagher said the district currently has no set policy for handling the debt racked up by overdue lunch accounts, but one has been drafted and is under review by the policy subcommittee.
“It is important to remember,” stated Meagher, “that most students, especially elementary school students, depend on their parents or guardians to provide lunch money and we need to make even more of an effort to communicate with the adults who are responsible for their lunch accounts.”
By Jean Perry