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'School lunch shaming': How area divisions handle when a student can't afford lunch

Parents discussing the topic after issue in Franklin County

ROANOKE, Va. – 10 News is working for you to find out what schools do if a student cannot pay for lunch after the issue came up in Franklin County. Parents there are upset students can have their lunch taken from them if their account has insufficient funds.

We found many of the school divisions across the region handle things differently than Franklin County, some even going the extra mile for students.

Montgomery County: "We do not provide students with an alternate lunch option if their lunch account is negative. They can go through the line with one of the regular meal options."

Alleghany County: "All students get a meal no matter what. Not all schools are eligible for free meals like in Henry County, but the school district will not allow a student to go hungry. So if a student comes through the lunch line and does not have money enough in their account for the lunch, the student gets the lunch anyway. Any negative balances that remain at the end of the school year are covered by the school district."

Danville: "We are Community Eligibility Provision, which means all students eat free breakfast/lunch/after school snacks/organized meals after school We are very proud of the fact that every child eats free every day in DPS. I hope other Divisions can do the same. Providing a nutritious meal at the beginning of the day makes for a more productive learning environment."

Henry County: "Henry County operates under the Community Eligibility Provision, which means every student receives free breakfast and lunch (there are multiple entree and side options included each day so that students have choice based on preferences and dietary needs). Any student who wishes to purchase additional items beyond the lunch options is permitted to do so.

"We also have a share table in every cafeteria so that students who do not open/use prepackaged items can place them there for other students to take if they would like additional items at no extra cost. We also have a community partnership with Salvation Army and Grace Network that allows us to store the share table leftovers in a separate refrigerator housed in each cafeteria - SA and GN have volunteers who pick up the leftover items each week and share them with families through their free grocery stores. This has returned thousands of pounds of food that would otherwise have been thrown away to families who need them."

Roanoke County: "We feed all children who want breakfast or lunch even if they don't have money and need to charge the meal."

Roanoke City: "We want to share information about Roanoke City Schools: No child is denied breakfast/lunch regardless of their ability to pay. Students receive the same meal as everyone else. There are no alternative meals. Any family can apply for free/reduced meal benefits. Roanoke City Schools participates in the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) that provides breakfast and lunch at no cost to students in 24 schools without families needing to submit an application for free/reduced meal benefits."

Lynchburg: "We communicate with the parents/guardians concerning negative balances student accrue, attributed to charging the school meals. Federal and state laws do not allow for the overt identification of students who do not have money to pay for school meals, and taking a student's meal tray does just that.

We feed the students regardless of their ability to pay and work with families to either make an eligibility determination or to collect meal debt. Federal and State laws also disallow school officials from discussing meal debt with the student; it must be directed to the parent/guardian."


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