Schools not giving hot lunches to students with unpaid accounts

Steamboat Springs School District trying to collect $10K for overdue fee

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Dozens of Steamboat Springs students have been denied hot lunches since the new semester began Monday because of unpaid balances on their school lunch accounts.

Max Huppert, the district's director of nutritional services, said the news should not have come as a surprise to parents. He said the district has spent weeks sending out notifications reminding parents to pay off the balances.

About 25 elementary students and an unknown number of Steamboat Springs Middle School students were informed Monday that they no longer would be able to accrue debts on the district's automated payment system. Students $6 or more in debt on their lunch accounts - the cost of two lunches - were unable to get the meal of their choice, beginning on the first day back from break.

"All the elementary kids, everybody, should have known. I don't understand how they couldn't have known, because we saturated them with notices," Huppert said.

The school district had about $10,000 in unpaid lunch fees before Monday, Huppert said, and since that time, about half of that amount has been paid.

Students with overdue accounts at the elementary schools instead were offered peanuts and sunflower seeds Monday, along with other snack food. Beginning Tuesday, elementary students unable to purchase lunch were given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Students at the middle school and high school were not given any free food options if their accounts were overdrawn, Huppert said.

High school students have been unable to charge this year, Huppert said, and there was no change in operations there, because most students pay in cash.

Parent Lorraine Morrison was upset by the district's refusal to serve hot lunches to elementary school students.

Morrison said she understands that the school must collect payments, but she does not want students to suffer because of their parents' actions.

"I guess maybe I just have a problem with little kids getting sunflower seeds for lunch when their parents haven't paid. The thing is, parents forget, parents are sick or out of town," Morrison said.

Huppert said that before Monday, there were several accounts running balances of $100 or more. Secretaries at the schools have been calling parents to remind them about overdue accounts.

JoAnne Hilton-Gabeler, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said there is no district administrative policy governing how lunch fees are handled.

Huppert said all students had at least some food to eat.

"Nobody went hungry. They just weren't able to come through the line and get the food they normally would," he said.

Students on the free lunch program were unaffected by the change. Students who qualify for reduced lunch fees - 40 cents instead of $3 per meal - are allowed to accrue $1.20 of debt before their account is cut off, Huppert said.

To check the balance of a student account, parents can visit the district's Web site at www.steamboatschoolfood.com and click on the "MyNutriKids" link to see available funds and add money. Parents without Internet access can call the individual schools to determine available balances.

On Wednesday, there were only a few students who were denied a hot lunch, Huppert said.

Comments

stillinsteamboat 5 years, 11 months ago

Mrs. Morrison, I think some of the parents were simply taking advantage of the district. A growling tummy will get the message across loud and clear. PAY your debt. The parents and not the district are at fault if the kids go hungry. My own kid went hungry on Monday.

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LLM 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm sorry your child was hungry on Monday. It is too bad that the district can't withhold lunch from the unpaying parent rather than the hungry child. My seven year old son did NOT go hungry Monday, but he did share his lunch with another student who received none. The district says they offered sunflower seeds, etc. to the students who did not receive lunch; the child who shared my son's lunch apparently was not paying attention and missed out. $10,000 sounds like a large amount of money, but as a business owner, I would think that is typical. It's called accounts receivable, and in most companies in Steamboat Springs, a $10,000 accounts receivable would be quite low. Signed, Mrs. Morrison.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 11 months ago

How high are the accounts receivables at McDonald's? None........This is a service provided by the school which requires students to pay in advance.

And, $10,000 is a drastic amount. That could basically translate into 200 individual accounts that have not made a payment in a month.

I applaud the school district for offering free snacks to those that were delinquent.

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LLM 5 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Fridell, I would encourage you to confirm with students and parents that snacks such as sunflower seeds and peanuts were offered on Monday. I believe that two children from Ms. Scoppa's 2nd grade class were not given anything.
We should not digress from the real issue here, which is the punishment of children due to the neglect of the parents. Rather than "visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children," I believe we should live by the creed "It takes a village."

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Dave Ege 5 years, 11 months ago

While I am sure some parents are indeed just pushing the limits of paying on a timley basis, but withholding a hot lunch fron a child who id $6.00 in arrears on his / her lunch account is shamefull. (as reported on channel 7 tonight. Your city budget and school budgets are seperate, but the city chooses to give self supporting entities(ie: Strings on the Mountain) which is mostly frequented by the "well to do", and lease a cith owned building to another arts organization for $1.00, Why can't one of the most expensive cities to live in in the state of Colorado help out children who may really need the help? Just MHO. Even though I am on a very fixed income, if I heard of this happening in the South Routt School District, I would be writing a check to make sure our greatest national asset is fed properly!

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arnonep 5 years, 11 months ago

Please Mrs. Morrison. George Carlin says it best "it does not take a village, it takes 2 parents". The village is just there to keep an eye on what your kids should already know. It's no wonder our financial system is failing. I will be petitioning the school board to publish the names of the offenders so that the business owners in this community can have the option to refuse services to those that "CHOOSE" to not pay their debts. What sort of example are you setting for your kids? How negligent do you have to be to not provide for your children? A last thought: Do you really think any of these kids's health or welfare was endangered?

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sunflowergirl9999 5 years, 11 months ago

Mrs. Morrison, What did you want them to do? How could they punish you as a parent? With most of the accounts paid off by Wednesday, it looks like it worked. Made you pay didn't it? Your child didn't go hungry Tuesday did they. I would get over it. Maybe the "fathers" should pay their bills. I know parents get sick and are out of town, but you still have to be a parent. Don't you feed your kids when you're sick and out of town. You don't forget. Right? Food for thought!

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JLM 5 years, 11 months ago

The more fundamental question is --- why was credit extended in the first place? Why? They don't give you credit at McDonald's do they?

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LLM 5 years, 11 months ago

Now I am being attacked as an unpaying parent. Let me re-iterate: My son's account WAS PAID. My son DID NOT GO HUNGRY! My son SHARED HIS LUNCH with an unpaying student. Signed, Mrs. Morrison

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arnonep 5 years, 11 months ago

Mrs. Morrison, You opened your mouth without thinking. You inadvertently sided with the slacker parents. You spewed the "it takes a village". I just asked some open ended questions for you to address if you are so quick to side with the negligent parents. And again, Do you really think any of these kids's health or welfare was endangered?

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stillinsteamboat 5 years, 11 months ago

BTW, Mrs. Morrison, We still had $2.75 in our lunch account on Monday but it wasn't the $3.00 required for the school lunch. My daughter was hungry when she got home but I should have checked to make sure there was enough money in her account for lunch. Was I thrilled my child went hungry? No, however the responsibility was mine and not the schools to make sure she could buy lunch.

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arnonep 5 years, 11 months ago

still, Thanks for taking responsibility for your actions.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 11 months ago

I, as a parent, have eaten the school lunches with my child a time or two. The lunchroom is a very casual conversation session amongst students and most don't eat a 1/3 of the food that is served. The garbage cans get filled much more than the tummies.

No kids went hungry. Any more hungry than usual that is. And, like I stated before, there are not too many, if any at all, charge accounts at restaurants.

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ldann76 5 years, 11 months ago

Over the past three years, I have prepaid for my two sons lunches every month. Because boys will be boys, my sons started charging lunches and snacks for their friends. It got to the point where the checks I was sending, which were enough for twenty lunches, weren't even covering what was owed. How is it that when I was finally notified of this, there was a balance of $150.00 between two schools from nearly two school years. Why are the children allowed to charge this way? Where is the schools responsibility in this?

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Duke_bets 5 years, 11 months ago

Idann - What? I have a hard time believing that story.........You might want to check with your sons or the school and find out the truth. Because it sounds like you fell for a huge line of BS from the kids.

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Scott Berry 5 years, 11 months ago

This is all quite simple. We are taking from the able and responsible and giving to the needy and irresponsible. And, secondly we are dealing with a government accounting system and policy, albeit on a small scale.

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confused 5 years, 11 months ago

Kids are allowed to purchase more than just their lunch - Atleast they were in the past - they could buy more than just one lunch or extra snacks outside their normal daily lunch. My son did it quite a bit until I questioned where all of the money was going. This should not have ever been allowed. A snack maybe but letting the kids over due it? What is that teaching our kids and why is the school letting kids charge these extras if some aren't even paying for their lunches??? The school has some accountability here that they need to own up too. How do you let school lunch charges get up to $10000 + owed???

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frankly 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree it is simple. Make lunch for your child at home and do not send them to school with a charge account if you are not able to trust them. It is the parent's responsibility to teach the child truthfulness, economy, and values. The school just happens to give them the tools to use this common sense in a more global manner. You can always call the school and find out the status of your child's account! The school should not have to chase you down to pay your account. In the REAL world of business, a credit agency would be calling you. Don't blame the school for your mistakes - I find the 'victim' society in this country abhorrant!

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Formerresident 5 years, 11 months ago

WOW! Cannot believe that so many of you think this is ok! What has happened to Steamboat? Taken over by the repugnicans I think! Feed the children, always, no exceptions!

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ldann76 5 years, 11 months ago

I have the statements from the school. Some days there were two lunches charged along with multiple snacks. I thought I was getting a line of BS when I was informed of the debt. How could that be true? But, kids are kids and will do whatever they can get away with. Both of my sons have a $6 dollar balance and I make them a lunch every morning because the school lunch system is not very convenient any longer.

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arnonep 5 years, 11 months ago

Idann, OMG, kids are kids is a load, kids are product of their parents. Maybe you and Mrs. Morrison need to form your own "village". Smack your kids and send them to school with a fried liver sandwich for a week.

Confused and those that think the school needs to be accountable, The school fed the kids and was taken advantage of by the slacker parents. The school needs to stop the credit system due to those slackers, not the kids.

Former, I only hope your user name represents that you are no longer a resident if this country and/or do not vote. Good thing all of you non-repugnicans voted for Garry Wall. And, as I have asked Mrs. Morrison, Do you really think any of these kids's health or welfare was endangered?

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arnonep 5 years, 11 months ago

Do you really think any of these kids's health or welfare was endangered?

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Gaylan Hellyer 5 years, 11 months ago

I have three kids in the schools here and I pre-pay and monitor their school lunches through the website that was set-up last year. The elementary school kids are only allowed to charge one lunch per day on their accounts. So, as far as I can tell the district does monitor who charges and when. MyNutrikids.com And as far as notices, I received one at the teacher conferences and another before the christmas break that said overdue accounts would be denied hot lunches when school resumed. And on occasion I get a notice letting me know when I need to deposit more money for one kid or another. So, I agree it was unfair to the students and I think the district could have dealt with it a little better. Even to go as far as placing an ad in the paper announcing their intentions would have been nice. Not all parents go through the countless papers that come home and that's if they even make it home. And to start the "no lunch for overdue accounts" the day the kids return from a long break was a bit much. I know I wasn't thinking about school lunches right before the break. Money is tight and things are hectic that time of year. They should have given the kids a week to settle back in and send final notices with amounts to the delinquent parties. And if you don't have the money then go to the office and apply for free or discounted lunches. There is help. It's a done deal at this point and they can't undo what has already happened. The schools operate as a business and have budgets and if the school lunch program is over the budget due to delinquent accounts then all the kids will suffer in the long run. The county publishes delinquent tax accounts in the paper as public record when we as adults don't take care of our business and ultimately lose. Just sign up online.... MyNutriKids.com

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gary rohrbaugh 5 years, 11 months ago

as usual things are not as they appear around this town. Not all kids that werent fed owed money. Someone made a mistake..... And if I am not wrong, you should hold the parents acountable not punish the kids for this. My grandaughter did not eat at all. she did not owe any money to any one. Nice job.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 11 months ago

It can hardly be overstated that the lunch card was supposed to be a prepaid system. So it was convenient as a parent to put in some money so my child could get food if she left her lunch bag at home or some other emergency. And if I don't hear anything from her about not being allowed to buy food or from the school saying that she was allowed buy despite having no balance then I should expect that a prepaid card still has a positive balance.

Instead they allowed significant negative balances until the total amount owed had become excessive.

I think we all should be glad that most all parents are taking responsibility for their children's action and have paid, or will pay, the negative balances.

If this happened in New York or California then there would probably have been someone filing a lawsuit claiming violation of prepaid card agreements and thus negative balances could not legally be collected.

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forthepowder 5 years, 10 months ago

There is no doubt the school district punished the kids for their parents mistake. I can't imagine being humilated and hungary helped those kids stay focused in their classes after lunch. A better remedy would have been to publish the names and amounts in a school newspaper or in the Pilot; at least then the kids would not have born the embarassment by themselves. their parents would have had to hide their faces all day from their friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

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Voice_For_Children 5 years, 10 months ago

Mrs. Morrison, I have been trying to contact you. I am from California and we have had similar issues here. We now have State policy from the California Department of Education on this issue (February 2008). For those who are still reading this article and comments, please consider the following:

We as a society should not shame, humiliate or punish a CHILD for the transgression of their parents. Especially our very young elementary school students. This practice is definitely humiliating and shaming young children and will probably cause some to go without eating. "A hungry child cannot learn" and when you also shame and humiliate the child this will not help them in the classroom. Think about a child crying in the lunchroom, because of something that they are ultimately not responsible for, the action of their parents to pay or not pay their bills.

There are a number of reasons why a parent may not have paid their account balance. These range from simply forgetting, to intentionally not pay and a range of things in between.

This is an issue that should be resolved between the parents and the school district and not directly involve the child by publicly humiliating and shaming them in front of their peers. The school district needs to hold the parent accountable, not the child. The parents should be paying for the meals or send a lunch from home. Unfortunately, not all parents will do this. Again, this is not the child's fault. This is an issue that needs to be addressed with the parents.

The article mentions that Reduced Price students will also be denied the hot lunch, if they go $1.20 in debt (3 meals). These students are the at risk students and for some, the school breakfast/lunch program may be their only opportunity to get a nutritious meal that they will eat. It is not enough to say the meal is different but nutritionally complete. The child has to eat the meal to get the nutrition. The National School Lunch Program states in part "children (free and reduced) shall have the same choice of meals or milk that is available to those children who pay the full price for their meal or milk."

I encourage all interested parties to work together to find positive solutions. Some questions you might want to ask your school district:

Does your School District have a policy for collecting payment from parents who do not pay their bills or reimburse the District for lost books, etc.?

How is your school district addressing this issue for special needs children?

Is the school district seeking reimbursement for these alternate meals from the state and federal government (National School Lunch program)?

Is the school district charging parents for these alternate meals?

How much does the alternate meal cost the school district to prepare?

For those who may be interested in the policy for California, you can read it at the following link:

http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/mbusdasnp012008.asp

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