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MCCSC Officially Adopts Controversial School Lunch Debt Policy

U.S. Congressman Todd Rokita’s legislation, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, would restrict the number of schools able to provide free lunch to any and all students.

Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The school district says it had to put the policy in writing because of a USDA requirement.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation board is creating a new policy to help students who do not have enough money in their school accounts to pay for lunch.

Students who run out of money in their school accounts will be able to receive three hot meals, or the equivalent cost, after which they will be given an alternate meal consisting of a peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich and a fruit cup with a pint of milk.

Board member Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer says she thinks the policy singles out children, which can lead to what some call “lunch shaming.”

“It’s not within a child’s control whether or not their parents pay, and I think there is a stigma and a feeling of sadness whenever that lunch is taken away from you,” Fuentes-Rohwer says.

The policy is a result of a United States Department of Agriculture requirement that schools put school lunch debt policies in writing.

The USDA, which oversees school lunch programs, also stipulates that school district debt cannot be covered with federal funding. This would mean that the debt would cut into the district’s general fund, possibly affecting teacher salaries and education programming.

School Superintendent Judith DeMuth says the policy is the best solution the school corporation could find given the constraints they are under.

“If there is a better way, if there is something we’ve missed . . . we will certainly be happy to revisit the policy and bring it back to you,” DeMuth says.

The school corporation had already been practicing the policy, but didn’t have it in writing.

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