REMINDER: Apply for free and reduced meals today
During the summer of 2022, the USDA went away with the Universal Free Meals program which had been in place for two years due to the pandemic.
The director of food services says families were thrown off guard at the beginning of the school year with the news of this, and some of those who qualify for the Free and Reduced Meals Program have not filled out the form.
Currently, there are 6,800 in the Free and Reduced meal program, and 45.6% of the total enrollment qualifies as identified by the state of Iowa.
There were no negative balances for student school lunches on the first day of school. As of Sept 22nd, the district has a negative balance of nearly $12,940.00. This total is a combination of all families who have not paid off their student’s breakfast/lunches.
That’s the equivalent of 726 students with a negative balance just 21 days into the school year.
In 2016/2017 the district averaged a $3,000 negative balance from one year to the next. The balance kept getting larger due to policy changes nationwide. In 2018, The district was a little over $30,000 in the negative balance.
“If the student does have a negative balance, regardless if they’re negative and don’t qualify or they are negative and do qualify now, every student does get fed a meal; they’re not turned away. The only thing that they can’t do is purchase or charge ala carte items,” Rich Luze, Food Services Director said.
On a daily basis, the Food Services Department provides 11,500 meals per day with 15,000 students enrolled in the district.
Families are able to pay off their balance on a payment plan.
At the current moment, there is no deadline set for families to pay off the debt.
“We understand there’s the district understands that there are hardships out there and whatnot, you know, so it’s, it’s just, we do what we can do to help them,” Luze added.