Sioux Falls School District to begin enforcing school lunch policy
The Sioux Falls School District will be enforcing its school lunch policy after a donation campaign aimed to erase that debt.
While they recognize the fix is not permanent, school officials say a true solution would need to come from a higher legislative level.
The district has raised $92,000 in donations to erase the current student lunch debt. But going forward, district officials say they plan to begin enforcing an existing policy that limits what meals will be given out to students who have accrued a negative balance in their meal account.
District child nutrition coordinator Gay Anderson says the district is moving toward trouble with lunch debts. In fact, the district is looking at a $400,000 hit to the general fund assuming current trends continue through May. Anderson explains the letter of the school districts policy.
“We have a policy in place that states from $0 to -$20 we are not to be feeding them breakfast," Anderson said. "If they are more than -$20 in their account, we would be giving them a 'smart snack,' but we would have to charge them a dollar for that. Once they hit -$75, our policy states that we are not to be feeding them, and that’s not something anybody wants to be doing.”
School lunches have become a hot topic after COVID-based federal school funding lapsed. Anderson said there are answers to feed kids without putting that weight on parents.
“If our government would make a change in decision-making on that policy, and say we want to feed kids free meals, that would be one step," Anderson said. "States can have their own state legislation, we’d hope the state can come up with some legislation to help ease the burden on parents. Most importantly, again, it comes down to people at least completing an application if they believe they’d qualify for free and reduced meals.”
Anderson reports total local school lunch debt rates had gone up from $7,000 district-wide in 2012 to $220,000 last year.