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"Peanut butter 'substitute meal' does not embarrass students"

Posted: Mon, Mar 13, 2017 8:49 PM

The Decorah School Community School Board again discussed their policy of providing a "substitute meal" for students reaching a $30 negative balance in their school lunch accounts.

Board member Brian Petersburg had researched the issue and thought some of the public has misconstrued the reality and impact of the policy. He noted that peanut butter sandwiches are served almost 500 times per month as part of the regular school menu option, thereby making the substitute meal nothing that would subject a student to embarrassment or make them "stand out." Principals from all the district schools agreed that there was no stigma attached to the policy in its implementation, and that its use was actually very limited.

Superintendent Mike Haluska said that the Decorah policy is much more lenient and liberal than many school districts where students are denied any cafeteria access when an account reaches zero. It was also noted that students in need can apply for a "free or reduced lunch" program. But, financial need is not necessarily the driving factor in students reaching negative balances. It is usually parents simply not paying, or students piling up "a la carte" purchases.

Discussion of the policy, which was passed last summer, was mostly the result of a recent state mandate that requires school districts to have defined policies in place in regard to negative balances. The mandate did not, however, define what those policies should be.