New Child Nutrition Program Charge Policy Raises Many Questions

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Carbon School District Nutritional Director Patti Rigby recently met with concerned parents regarding the new child nutrition program charge policy. This policy was created due to a USDA requirement that all child nutrition programs (CNP) begin to take the right steps to ensure that our local school lunch programs are self-sufficient and do not rely on the general education fund to cover the deficits incurred by unpaid lunch balances.

This policy affects Carbon School District students that have a reduced priced or full priced lunch status. The change means that a student will now need to have adequate money in their lunch account or hand to purchase a regular school lunch before they go through the lunch line. However, there is a grace period. Students are allowed up to five unpaid lunches and can still get a lunch. Once they are five lunches behind in payments, the student will then be offered an alternate lunch with a charge of $.35.

In addition to this policy, any account that incurs a debt of $30 or more will then be turned over to a professional collection agency for payments. The alternate lunch that is being offered mirrors the nutritional value of the regular hot meals. In a notice sent out by the school district, it was explained that the lunch will be in a paper sack and be deemed a cold lunch.

“We will do everything in our power to avoid drawing attention to your child having a deficit account,” stated the notice.

However, a majority of the parents that met with Rigby recently were concerned about how the program is affecting children at lunch, both nutritionally and socially. Rigby informed the concerned parents that the district and individual schools were doing all they could to have discretion where the lunches were concerned. She also stated that unless donations are given to the district to cover the cost of the other lunches, this will be the way that lunches are handled per the district.

Parents were also voicing concern over certain misguided incidents that they had heard of through social media. Each was debunked by Rigby, such as a student being denied to call their parent when they did not have money in their account.

“It’s hearsay, but it kind of snowballs,” Rigby stated.

Rigby also informed the parents that there are some students that have expressly requested to have the alternate lunches due to enjoying what is offered in them.

A group that is unaffiliated with the school district has been created on Facebook that is titled the Carbon County Equal Lunches group. Their goal is to raise funds to ensure that no student sticks out or is given reason to be bullied by their peers. The group’s first step is to put jars at local businesses that people will be able to drop money in as they are shopping. If you would like to join the group or make a contribution, please click here.