School district meal debt erased, full-sized meals for all during 2017-2018 school year

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Thanks to the response from community members, the Edmonds School District was able to erase its school lunch debt.

MLTnews reported less than two weeks ago that the Edmonds School District’s food and nutrition services department had a debt of $6,936.13, accumulated from students receiving meals when they did not have the proper funds in their meal accounts. Debt is typically accumulated from students who use a check to add money to their meal accounts that later bounces – the money is added to their account as soon as the check is received by district staff, and the student may have been purchasing meals in the meantime with money that did never actually made it to their accounts.

Those who had debt could not receive their transcripts.

The Edmonds School District set up a website earlier this year at this link for interested community members to donate and help erase meal debt for local students. As of May 25, 36 donors contributed $7,414.

That money erased the debt from the accounts of 755 students, including 60 graduating seniors and 424 elementary school students. Being in debt does not prevent a student from purchasing a meal, as long as the student can pay for the meal that day.

But, although the recent debt has been erased, there’s still a good reason to donate to the food and nutrition services department.

During the school board meeting on Tuesday, May 23, the board approved eliminating courtesy meals for the 2017-2018 year.

“There was tremendous passion on the part of the School Board for this to happen and Food and Nutrition Services is happy about implementing the new procedures allowing all students to receive the same meal each day,” said Barbara Lloyd, director of the district’s food and nutrition services department.

Currently, if a student cannot pay for a meal, they are given what is called a courtesy meal. Courtesy breakfasts are made up of a bowl of cold cereal with milk. Courtesy lunches are a cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with raisins and juice.

Years ago, the district provided full meals to students whether or not they could pay, but the food and nutrition services department’s debt grew to more than $200,000 between 2005-2008. Courtesy meals were introduced in 2010 to reduce the debt, as a courtesy meal costs much less to produce. The production cost for courtesy lunches, for example, is 54 cents compared to $3.34 for a full lunch.

Now that the debt is gone, courtesy meals will be eliminated for a one-year trial. The change is expected to take effect before September 2017.

“The conversation (about eliminating courtesy meals) is happening nationally as the United States Department of Agriculture has been studying the unpaid meal debt situation and the impact it has on all National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs,” Lloyd said.

The current protocol to prevent debt will still be in effect. Students and their families will receive email notifications once their meal accounts drop below $10.

Continuing donations will help the program survive beyond its first trial year.

“The money will help to pay the District for those families who do not pay back what they have borrowed,” Lloyd said.

Click here to open the district’s donation page. In the memo slot, donors can specify which school they would like to donate to specifically if they have a specific school’s debt that they want to help erase.

–By Natalie Covate

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