Food service initiative to combat lunch shaming

Kayla Eaton, Staff Writer

Per laws set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, every school is required to have a policy regarding overdrawn lunch accounts. This means that the policy must address the issue of having a debt in a student’s lunch account.

According to Mr. Randy Walker, Food Service Director, there was no deadline to have a policy in place, but every school must have one.

“Our overdue policy allows students to charge their meal account up to $10 (this is for meals only, charging for ALA Cart items is not permitted). When an account exceeds $10, the Parent/Guardian is to be informed. If the Parent/Guardian does not respond, the district can take numerous courses of action that could include any or all of the following: A) give an alternate, less costly meal B) limit the student’s extracurricular activities C) contact the District Magistrate to pursue collection,” Walker said.

When a student doesn’t have money in their lunch account, they can still purchase lunch and breakfast.

According to the announcement the Department of Food Service made on Facebook, “The benefits of eating breakfast and lunch are undeniably linked with successful learning. Our students should not have to face the stress of worrying about whether or not their food service accounts are adequately funded.”

“When lunch accounts are not taken care of at the end of the year, the General Educational Fund pays off the debt for the Food Service Fund. Then, the next year, the Food Service Department is still responsible for the collection of all debts incurred from the previous year,” Walker said.

To avoid using the money from this fund, the Department of Food Service created a program called “Freedom Superheroes.” This allows members of the community and local businesses to donate money that will be used to help remedy the overdrawn lunch accounts. The donation goes to the Freedom Academic Foundation.

Since the program was announced this past summer, the school has received $650 in donations to go towards overdue lunch accounts.

“The biggest goal of ‘Freedom Superheroes’ is to eliminate the need to discuss meal accounts with students,” Walker said.

Funds will first go towards students who pay for their lunches to having their meals be free, paying off debts acquired while paperwork was being processed. Next, the donated money will go towards families that applied for free lunch, but didn’t get accepted because they missed the income cutoff. After those lunch accounts are taken care of, Walker will consult with guidance counselors to determine which families would benefit more from the donated money. Payments will be made at the end of each month.

Parents are encouraged to apply for free or reduced lunches if they are struggling financially. Families can sign up starting in July and extending until the last day of school.