Withholding Of Lunches From Students Who Can't Pay Still Occurs - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Withholding Of Lunches From Students Who Can't Pay Still Occurs

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN -

A new survey shows some Minnesota school districts withhold food in some way from youngsters with accounts that don't have enough to pay for the meal.

Apparently, the school districts even sometimes resorting to humiliating measures to get parents to pay up.

FOX'S Karen Scullin has the story.

Punch in an account number and eat. Many believe it should be that simple, and it is usually is at Andersen United Community School, which is part of the Minneapolis School District.

It's district policy that all students get a hot lunch, and they always get something to eat whether their parents have put money in the account or not.

"Kids are tired, kids are not focused when they're hungry so we just eliminate that," said Debora Brooks-Golden of the Andersen United Community School.

According to a new survey, Minneapolis is one of 97 districts that have that "no refusal" policy.

However, there are 166 districts that offer a less nutritious alternative meal like a cheese or peanut butter sandwich and vegetable.

And then, 46 districts have a policy that says when the account runs dry, so does the food.

"Everyone else is surprised this is happening, but we've known this is happening for a while," said Jessica Webster, a legal aid.

There are usually warnings, like hand stamps, but Webster calls those humiliating.

"It's a stigmatizing practice, some districts think that when they stamp a kid with an animal or a smiley face, it's a reminder to parents, but when you get a stamp that says ‘money or lunch,' it's embarrassing," argued Webster.

The students affected are those on the reduced lunch program, about 40 cents per meal.

Districts in the "immediate or eventual food refusal list" say they just can't afford to cover those kids if no payment is made.

"They say they have budgetary pressures, they say the food has gone up - their budgets are shrinking and that they have a lot of cost constraints and that they have to be self-sustaining so they can't absorb the cost," explained Webster.

However, some of those districts on that list say that the written policy doesn't really reflect reality.

There is communication with the parents, payment options, and if they still can't pay, there's a so called "angel account" that helps.

Even so, the fact that it can happen and legal aid says it does, is astonishing to many parents and educators.

"This needs to stop, these districts need to stop these practices," said Webster.

"I know that learning is primary and when students feel like they are not hungry, they learn best," Brooks-Golden said.

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