The Derry School District will effect a change in its school lunch policy in order for the district Food Service to run closer to the black, while still allowing young tummies to be filled.
Business Administrator Jane Simard explained that the policy was approved by the School Board two weeks ago and will go into effect Tuesday, April 1.
Simard said the new rules were created to deal with a growing number of unpaid balances in school lunches for the Kindergarten Grade 8 schools. The balance as of March 20 was $11,000, Simard said, and while many parents have been contacted and sent checks, some families’ balances continue to grow.
Up to April 1, Simard said, any child who arrives at the cash register with a lunch and no money will still be allowed to charge a full school lunch. This policy will then change, she said, with any child with a balance of more than $20 in unpaid lunches being given an “alternative” school lunch of a cheese sandwich and fruit.
“The maximum they can be in arrears is $20, and after that they will be offered the cheese sandwich and a piece of fruit,” Simard said. She said while the cheese sandwich and fruit do not qualify for federal school lunch reimbursement, they do qualify as a “meal” under federal guidelines.
Simard said the School Administrative Unit staff has been making phone calls to parents, informing them of the new policy, and also sending notices home with elementary students. Parents of middle-school students receive only the phone call, she said, noting that “notices don’t get to them.” The elementary students also get a weekly summary of their balances, she said.
When a child has a negative balance or is close to one, she said, cafeteria staff discreetly inform them of their status.”
But the new rule should come as no surprise to parents, Simard added, saying, “We have made every attempt to contact them.”
Simard recommended a Website, mylunchmoney.com, for parents to keep track of their children’s balances. The check-in feature is free, she said, although it costs $1.95 per transaction to put funds into the account. A parent can set up the account to tell them when their child has $5 or less in their account, she said.
Simard also recommended that parents who are down on their luck contact the school district office or Food Service Director Susan Baroskas for a Federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch application. These are available all year-round, she said, and there are staff members to help parents through the process.
While the cheese sandwich and fruit will take care of a child’s hunger, it will also cost the parents $1, a bill that will be applied to their account, she said.
“Our policy,” she said, “is never to take a tray away from a child.”
For more information, call the District office at 432-1210.