Less money, more students with lunch time debt

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

LINDALE, TX (KLTV) - Many school districts across the nation and in East Texas are being faced with a unique financial burden. Lunch money debts are piling up because of the recession, and more kids are going through the lunch line without money to pay for their food.

The average lunch in this cafeteria costs no more than $2.25. But, for many kids, that's still too much.

"I hear hard luck stories often," said Laurie Krueger, the Child Nutrition Program Director for Lindale ISD.

The School Nutrition Association says hard luck stories are heard nationwide - a sign of the recession. In East Texas, schools like Lindale ISD, say there's been an increase in unpaid meals.

"Last year we had an unlimited charging policy and I had several children that owed over $100," said Krueger.

She says this can become a problem.

"We do end up writing some debts off and also the kids leave and so that became the other issue with them withdrawing from school," Krueger.

So, like many schools around the country, Lindale toughened their "I.O.U." policy. Now, there's a $10 limit. After that, kids get an alternate meal.

"They still are eating," said Krueger. "We are giving them something to eat but they aren't continuing to charge."

Another sign of the times is the number of kids who get federally subsidized and reduced priced lunches.

"We are currently having over 100 more kids on the free and reduced lunches this year than last year," said Krueger.

A family of four qualifies for the free lunch program if they make less than $28,000 a year. If a family makes less than $40,000 a year, they qualify for reduced price lunches.

"You and your family may qualify, and if you can get on the program it certainly makes it easier," said Krueger.

She says despite the shaky times, one thing's for certain: no child should go hungry. Every district is different, so contact your child's school if you want to know what programs they offer.

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