School District Still Struggles With Unpaid Lunch Charges

The Derry School Board may deflate the “cushion” it provides for students to charge lunches, after an initiative to reduce student school lunch debt did not produce the desired results.

Business Administrator Jane Simard reported at the May 13 School Board meeting that the lunch account is still $5,400 in arrears, after the Board changed its policy of dealing with charged lunches.

Earlier this year, the board approved a policy of not allowing any student to charge more than $20 in lunches. Children with a balance of more than $20 are given a cheese sandwich and piece of fruit, which will still cost their parents $1.

Simard said sales in the lunch program have increased $10,000 over last May, and federal and state reimbursement has increased by $31,000.

More parents are sending in money to cover those outstanding balances, she said. Anonymous community members have also pitched in to reduce some of the debt.

But the balance isn’t dropping, Simard said, and the $20 cushion may be the reason. “The parents know they have a buffer,” she said.

The board agreed to revisit the issue in the fall, and perhaps drop the cushion amount to $10.

Simard also said the number of students qualifying for Free and Reduced lunches is still growing and the percentage has gone up in almost all the district schools, with Grinnell Elementary School the highest at 49.7 percent.

Simard urged parents who think they qualify to apply for the federally-subsidized lunches. She told the board the application can be daunting, with five pages on top of all the other material children bring home at the beginning of the year. “I am going to develop a cheat sheet, with bullet points,” she told the board.

That way, parents can know exactly what part of Free and Reduced their child qualifies for. For example, she said, children in half-day kindergarten do not qualify for a Free and Reduced breakfast.

For more information on Free and Reduced Lunch and to see if your child qualifies, call the District office at 432-1210.