KIMT News 3 – Garner-Hayfield schools are three days in to the new school year, and one lesson parents are being taught is that the school lunch program will run a little different this year.
“It’s hard sometimes to keep up with all the bills the way it is, and now they’re saying that after so long, they will send you to collections, that’s big. Especially, when kids aren’t giving you the notes saying that their lunch account is overdue,” said Briahna Benson a parent with children attending Garner-Hayfield schools.
Benson, along with the rest of the district’s parents, received a note from the school, detailing what will happen when parents don’t pay the lunch bill.
It states: As of September 2nd of this year, all nutrition accounts that have a negative balance will be turned over to a collection agency, and any student with a negative balance of five dollars or more will be served what’s called a “minimal meal.” That includes a peanut butter or cheese sandwich with a fruit or vegetable, and a carton of milk.
“I don’t feel like that’s right at all. My oldest son is just about eight, there is no way he’d be able to survive on a cheese or peanut butter sandwich with fruit and a carton of milk. There’s no way, he eats double to triple that,” said Benson.
“Many schools have already served a minimal meal for students with a negative balance. We’re probably one that have held out on that for many years,” said Superintendent, Tyler Williams.
For Superintendent Williams, it comes down to balancing the books. While he’s sad it had to come to this, he says he’s seen the school system go too far into debt because so many weren’t paying the lunch bill.
“Once it reached that $10,000 mark, I think that everybody felt that something needed to be done. It’s not an issue of punishing kids, we know its not a kid issue, it’s more of an issue of holding parents accountable.”
Benson says while having these new regulations aren’t fun, it seems like it’s much needed to pay off the debt.
Other schools around the area are dealing with the same issue, and are serving minimal meals when necessary.
In Mason City and Clear Lake, the account has to be in the negative before that happens. Austin Public Schools are more than $7,000 in debt when it comes to parents not paying their children’s accounts. Charles City says there is no school lunch money debt in their district.