Lunch debt covered

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Several West Liberty businesses and community members have stepped up in regard to a growing negative food account in the West Liberty Community School District.

Together West Liberty Foods, MediRev and Julie Miles have given $7,400 towards a negative balance totaling $7,692.86.

“We were trying to pay it off,” said West Liberty Foods Complex Manager Tom Alberti on behalf of West Liberty Foods, the largest employer in West Liberty.

“We are stewards in the community, basically we want to be involved with the community,” he added. Overall West Liberty Foods donated $6,000 to the cause.

The organization has been joined by Julie Miles, who has given $1,000, and MediRev, which has given $400. The remaining $300 of the balance will be paid off by three unnamed volunteer West Liberty families.

Not only has the community closed the gap, bit it did so quickly. News of the $7,000 plus deficit has only been circulating for around a month.

In the West Liberty Community School District (WLCSD), students and their guardians put money into a food account for school meals, which includes breakfast and lunch.

A student draws from that account every time he/she purchases a meal. Unfortunately, there are situations when student accounts aren’t paid off and go into the red.

To get more specific, of the 893 students with food accounts 243 were in the negative, with individual student debts measuring from 20 cents to $550.

However, those debts have been erased.

With donations righting the ship, it’s up to the school board and Health and Wellness Committee to figure out a way to keep a large negative food balance from accumulating once again.

According to Chris Martin, President of the WLCSD School Board and member of the committee, they’re working on a plan that involves reaching out to families.

“Now that we’ve got the food balance paid off, which is a huge deal, we’re working on a proactive plan where trained staff members can call the family and ask ‘In what way can we help you to get back on track,’” Martin said.

The committee is looking to the school’s nursing and counseling staff to be one-on-one with families of students whose food balances fall more than a month behind. However, any final decisions will be up to the school board.

That being said, West Liberty is unique in that every student receives a hot meal regardless of his/her balance.

“The board maintains, and I believe many people in the district believe, that every child deserves a hot lunch regardless of their lunch balance,” says President Martin.

While state law requires students that qualify for free and reduce lunch to be fed, WLCSD takes it step further by requiring all students be fed regardless of their food account status.

In fact, the Health and Wellness Committee has made it point that all students receive a ‘hot meal,’ meaning the same meal as everyone else, regardless of their account balance.

“We made a commitment as a board and as a district to feed every student a hot lunch,” said President Martin.
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