Paying Off Lunch Debt Pays Off Big for Kids

For some students their school lunch is the only meal they will get all day.

In Minnesota’s Minnetonka School District the Excelsior Lions are looking out for those children, seeing to it that everyone gets the food they need, and no child has to feel singled out for being different.

The Lions donated money to Excelsior Elementary School to pay off student hot lunch debts and are also providing funding for a program that allows students to take an extra sandwich or piece of fruit in case they need it later in the day.

According to USDA policy, children in the hot lunch program can buy three lunches after the money has run out of their lunch account, but after that they no longer get to have the same meal as their classmates. They get an alternative lunch such as a sandwich, fruit, and milk, says Jane Bender, the school supervisor of nutrition services.

Excelsior Lions donated US$2,000 from their summer golf tournament to the school of about 750 to pay off all student lunch accounts that were negative. One of the benefits is that no child is singled out. No one knows which children are receiving extra benefits because they’re getting a different lunch. Everybody is equal.

Lion Josh Bright spearheaded the idea, noting the need for donations like this is great in many communities. “I think every student should have the ability to come to school, feel safe, and have something good to eat. To learn the way they’re supposed to,” says Bright.

Well-fed children come to school not thinking about their hunger. They are better able to concentrate and visit the nurse’s office less often, says Bender.

The donation also eases stress, says school Principal Stacy DeCorsey. Students as well as their parents know when there is no money left in their lunch account. “This is wonderful for them,” she says. “This is one thing they don’t have to worry about.”