The Derry School District is whittling away at the balance of unpaid school lunches, with the help of one local business and several anonymous community partners.
Business Manager Jane Simard and Superintendent Laura Nelson gave a report on the balance, and the Free and Reduced Lunch numbers, at the Sept. 23 School Board meeting.
The district adopted a policy this summer of allowing a child to have a $5 maximum negative balance on their school lunch account, after unpaid lunches reached record highs last year. After a child reaches the $5 limit, he or she is allowed an alternative lunch of a cheese sandwich and fruit, with $1 billed to their account.
“We continue to collect,” Simard said.
The outstanding balances are now at $2,800, Simard told the board and television audience.
Board member Jeri Murphy asked if the balances are due to students who just recently joined the Federal Free and Reduced program and have outstanding accounts from last year.
SImard said some were due to that, but more were attributable to children in the regular paid lunch program.
Simard said community members continue to donate to reduce the outstanding balances. She passes the donations on to social worker Marianne Taylor, who distributes the gifts among the students. Taylor is working at eliminating the smaller balances, Simard said, “so that gets those kids off the books.”
One local business has gone a step further, she added. Paisano’s Pizza, on Route 102 just off the traffic circle, is donating money from its tip jar to subsidize children who can’t afford meals. “The employees are giving up their tips to do this,” Simard said.
Simard reminded parents that they can still enroll for Free and Reduced Lunch if they are qualified. Families who qualified last year are required to notify the district if they want to continue by Oct. 10, she said. “Otherwise, you’ll come off Free and Reduced status,” she said.
Those wanting to apply may call the District Office at 432-1210 or Food Service Director Susan Baroskas at 432-1231.
Nelson gave an update of the percentage of Derry Cooperative School District and Next Charter School children enrolled in Free and Reduced as follows: Next, 23.8 percent; Derry Village Elementary, 24.76 percent; South Range Elementary, 25.7 percent; West Running Brook Middle, 26.27 percent; Barka Elementary, 28.26 percent; and Gilbert H. Hood Middle, 32.71 percent. Grinnell Elementary was highest at 49.52 percent and East Derry Memorial Elementary lowest at 11.05 percent.