Jackson R-2 pens memo to students, families regarding meal account deficits
Peanut butter sandwiches and bottles of water for all students facing a minimum $50 dollar meal account deficit
JACKSON, Mo. (KBSI) – An e-mail that circulated Friday evening has made waves throughout the Jackson educational community.
That memo to students’ families stated the following: Satisfy any negative account balance of $50 or more or the student will be offered an “alternative meal” – a peanut butter sandwich and a bottle of water.
District officials, though, say there are alternatives.
“I think it is important for us to know the backstory behind this … all schools in the country, over the past two years, have been given a waiver through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA actually oversees the food service programs in public schools,” said Jackson R-2 Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Smith. “We have been given a waiver. Unfortunately, this year, districts do not qualify for that unless they have a very large, high percentage of poverty within our district. Jackson does not qualify for free meals for all students.”
An application process, which may be accessed via the district’s website, is step two in the newly-formed procedure, which goes into effect Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.
“There is an application process that we ask our parents to fill out — a free and reduced lunch form — and if they qualify, they would be able to receive meals for free, or at a reduced price,” said Smith. “If they don’t qualify, then they would be considered full pay, full-price pay for their meals. That is what we have asked our parents to do, just like most districts in the country have done.”
All of this comes on the heels of a districtwide negative meal balance of more than $32,000 in unpaid student meal accounts, according to the district e-mail.
Communication will remain vital between the students’ parents and the district,” Smith said, in order to rectify the problem.
“Since the onset of school [year], we have been asking our parents to do that [application]. We send out a variety of communication to our parents who have lunch balances accumulating. Ultimately, we want to work with our parents,” said Smith. “We want to work to make sure that we can help get them the … get them what they need.”
Students, the e-mail stated, will not be singled out.
However, the regular lunch tray will not be an option until the balance is paid in full. Also, no al-a-carte items will be made available until the debt is satisfied, per the e-mail.
District officials say the best way to combat the alternative meal is to formally apply for free or reduced meals.
Once qualified, the “district will forgive any negative balance that currently is on the student’s account.”
Schools throughout the state are funded in the following ways: Local funding comes more directly from the surrounding community, and is a bulk sum given to the district that is taken mainly from property taxes. The monies available for state funding comes from general state revenues (income taxes, sales tax, etc.), gaming, lottery, and other miscellaneous taxes, according to ceamteam.org.
Families will receive an automated weekly phone call if the child has a negative balance.
Families also will receive a weekly text message with the balance and a link to a “Parent Portal” where families can settle their child’s meal balance.
For further assistance, contact your child’s school social worker.