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District encourages national school lunch program to help eliminate lunch debt

Posted at 4:56 PM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 18:43:29-05

COPPERAS COVE, TX — We are just a few months into the new school year, and school districts across the Lone Star State are already seeing lunch debt.

Nearly 100,000 schools and institutions serve school lunches to nearly 30 million students each day, according to the School Nutrition Association. Twenty million of those lunches are free.

25 News dove into the numbers and asked some local districts to share where they stand.

Belton ISD's current negative account balances total just over $6,000. Copperas Cove ISD's is just over $16,000 dollars.

Each year, CCISD serves just over one million meals. Of those meals, about half are served at a free or reduced rate.

"Kids come through the line. They don't have money. Most of the time they're crying because they don't have, you know, lunches with them or something like that," said Melisa Johnson, a point of sale clerk for Copperas Cove ISD.

Johnson works in the cafeteria at Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary. She said on a daily basis, some students don't have money to pay for school meals.

"So when the kids come through the line, we always give them food no matter what," said Johnson.

It is a rule Copperas Cove ISD has implemented over the last couple of years. Since enacting the policy, they have seen an increase in the district's negative account lunch balance.

"Three years ago it was around $2,000. 2017-2018 it was around $12,000. And last year, 2018-2019, was around $23,000," explained Melissa Bryan, Director of Child Nutrition and Warehouse Services for CCISD.

The school district shared the current negative account balance is just over $16,000 for this school year.

Help is available for students in need. That is why the school district wants to get the word out about the National School Lunch Program.

"If they qualify for the free and reduced program, then the families will not accumulate any kind of negative balances, and so the meals are paid for," said Bryan. "Most child nutrition departments are completely self-operating, which means we receive no money from school districts to support our program."

New regulations from the USDA did come out last year regarding bad debt. For more information, visit this site.