You've seen the stories about children being shamed for their lunch accounts being negative, yelled at, and/or even having their lunches thrown out in front of them. Yikes! I have not heard of that happening here in Minnesota, at least not about having lunches scraped into the garbage since the child could not pay the overdue balance.

Good news out of this though, the number of children who are at risk of getting lunch shamed is going down, this according to new information from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. The advocacy group conducted a survey this past summer and found that only about 13% of the 300 schools offered an alternative lunch, and none of the schools denied a lunch if the lunch account was in the red. In a story from Fox 9 about school lunches, this is an improvement over the numbers from 2014:

Back then, 53 percent of schools offered an alternative meal and 15 percent refused any food to students who had negative accounts.

A big part of the reason for the better numbers is an increase in cultural awareness pertaining especially to students who are offered an alternative lunch, or in some cases, no lunch at all.

In Minnesota, schools are not allowed to deny diplomas for outstanding lunch debt, and efforts to collect debt must not “demean or stigmatize” a child.

However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires schools districts to try to collect, it just doesn’t say how.

I did some checking on the local school's nutrition sites to see what the average cost is for meals, as well as what the process is for a delinquent account. I have linked the nutrition services websites to the district names:

Owatonna School District: Kindergarten students get free breakfast at all schools. The prices for breakfast and lunch changes with the schools, the Middle School and High School costs more than the Elementary Schools.

Faribault School District: The Elementary Schools are cheaper than the Junior and Senior High Schools. Breakfast is offered at the schools as well.

Medford School District: If you click on the menus, you will see the pricing for breakfast and lunch menus.

Blooming Prairie School District: You can see the menus for breakfast and lunch in the Elementary and Secondary schools.

Rochester Public Schools: Checking the menus, it looks as though if a student qualifies for reduced meals, they will eat breakfast and lunch for free.

Interestingly, according to the MN Department of Education, any child who qualifies for Free Lunches under the federal guidelines, will also get a free breakfast, and those who qualify for Reduced Lunch pricing, also get a Free meal at breakfast (where offered) and lunch.

If you need help paying for school lunches, you can apply for free or reduced lunches, and you can find those applications on the school's websites, or by stopping by District offices in your district.



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