AUSTIN, Minn. – While most Minnesota schools are working to make sure every student receives a meal, some may be giving up.
A survey conducted early this week shows more than 40 school districts immediately or eventually refuse to feed students who have insufficient funds in their lunch account.
In many cases even pulling trays from students and for safety reasons throwing the food away.
Some area schools offer alternative meals for students unable to pay and claim it’s the most reasonable solution.
“We definitely do not agree with that. We do offer an alternative meal after students are three meals negative in their lunch account,” said Mary Weikum, Director of Food Services for the Austin School District.
After three meals, students can still receive peanut butter or cheese sandwiches and milk.
while it may not seem like much, students like Tori Grev say it’s a meal no student should miss.
“You need nutrition and you need to be able to have all that energy throughout the day. Especially right now. We’re growing and we’re learning throughout the day. It’s important to be able to have that provided and have all that energy that we need,” said Grev.
More than 62,000 low-income students take part in Minnesota’s reduced-price lunch program and according to Mary, it’s even more reason to keep these services available.
“We never want to see a kid not eat. That’s definitely not what we’re here for. Out goal is everyday they let the kids eat the main lunch and we work really hard to have communication with parents if student accounts are getting low so that it never comes to that,” said Weikum.
“Sometimes I forget and it’s good because even when I do forget, I’m able to go negative a bit in my account before. So they still give me food and I’m still able to get the nutrition,” said Grev.
Minnesota is one of many states looking to expand the free lunch program to all students who already receive reduced-price lunch. The cost would be an estimated $3.35 million.
The legislature debated the bill last year but failed to make any changes and hope to once again introduce a bill this year.