The Monroe County Community School Corporation will no longer serve alternate meals to students with lunch debt.
The school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to adopt a new policy stipulating all students will receive the same lunch, regardless of their account balance.
The change comes after the board heard nothing but opposition from the community during last month’s meeting about its previous policy, which said students could charge up to three meals before receiving an alternate meal of a peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich. Critics say the policy penalizes children for something beyond their control and could have negative psychological effects.
Hoosier Hills Food Bank Director Julio Alonzo was the only member of the public who spoke during the meeting. He thanked the board for changing the policy.
“I believe the new policy that’s proposed is much more in line with our community’s values and that children will be much better served by it,” Alonzo says.
He encouraged the board to keep lunch debt in mind when working with MCCSC’s budget.
“I think it’s the hope of many of us who advocated for this change that you will plan for covering some level of lunch debt in the budget and then supplement that with community donations, as opposed to the other way around,” Alonzo says.
The new lunch debt policy stipulates the school corporation will use money from its Food Service Assistance Fund to help cover the cost of providing meals to students with lunch debt. The corporation will work with a collections agency to attempt to collect meal debt from parents, but any unpaid debt is the responsibility of MCCSC. The district can’t use federal funds to pay it off.
The school board will receive monthly reports detailing the amount of lunch debt MCCSC has. It amounted to about $11,000 during the past academic year.