Debt Could Change School’s Lunch Program

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Some students in the Van Buren School District are eating lunch on the school's dime. Now, the school district is weighing its options.

That's after Deputy Superintendent Kerry Schneider says the school district says it had to foot a nearly $46,000 bill.

"If they don't have any money in their account or they don't have any money with them, we allow the students to charge a meal," Schneider said.

But the option to charge could soon change. The school board is looking at possibly changing how students in grades 9-12 can pay for lunch if they don't have money with them or any in their prepaid account.

"[The school district will] let us know when the account gets down to $10 so then I can pay it." said Lori Willyard, who has two sons at Van Buren School District. "But they have always let us go past that. So at times my son has come home with a $60 balance."

"You know that amount accrues over the course of time and in some cases it gets to be a pretty significant amount," Schneider said.

Lunches at the school district cost $2.40 last school year. Divide that by the $45,900 the school district is out, and you get roughly 19,125 meals paid for out of the school's pocket.

"I was shocked to hear that," said Willyard. "That's just a little bit ridiculous."

"You hate to get in a position where you're denying a student a meal," Schneider said. "It's a long day and its a hard day to go through if you don't eat sometime during the day. I think that's an issue will have to be addressed before a decision is made."

Schneider said they plan to discuss their options of either limiting the number of charges a student can use, or by eliminating the charge program all together, at the school board meeting on Aug. 13. That way they have a plan in place before this school year begins.

Changes would not affect students in elementary or middle school, Schneider said. He also added that school lunch prices will be going up to $2.50 this school year to meet FDA guidelines.

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