School board continues discussions on school meals and waivers – Salisbury Post

School board continues discussion on school lunches and waivers

Posted at 12:10 a.m. on Tuesday, August 23, 2022

SALISBURY – Rowan-Salisbury Schools received an update on the status of school meals on Monday evening.

The council asked to be told about the meal payments due to local interest in the issue after a hard-hitting federal waiver expired in late June. The waiver has been extended several times and brought the district’s free universal meal program from March 2020 to June 2022.

Now that the waiver is gone, the District Nutrition Department must bill for meals again because it is not reimbursed for all meals by the United States Department of Agriculture. Public school nutrition services are organized as businesses that need to break even, and meal debt was accumulating rapidly in the first week of school.

The district will not deny a meal to a student who is unable to pay, but will initially allow a student to go into debt for the value of three lunches before beginning to enter “alternative meals” into their system, that he does not get reimbursed. for. These “unrecovered student debts” are part of what people can donate to, as sometimes families cannot afford even three meals. Director of School Nutrition Lisa Altmann made a point of telling the board that the department’s goal is to break even and that the funding it receives is based entirely on sales and reimbursement of the USDA.

There is a long list of scenarios that still make meals free for many students. Breakfast is free at all schools, 10 schools are eligible for a community waiver that allows the district to serve everyone for free, and many students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch.

Altmann said applications were pouring in for free and reduced status. Registrations dropped to about 50% during the pandemic because free meals were universal. Altmann said registrations have picked up and are now at 61%. She told the council that the district was sitting at 67% enrollment in the free or reduced-cost program before universal free meals.

The state has also set aside funds to cover the difference between free and reduced lunch fees, so students who qualify for a reduced lunch don’t have to pay.

Altmann said eligibility for a community waiver that provides universal free individual school meals is based on a mix of factors, including the number of families who receive food stamps, Medicaid, those in families with welcome.

Council Chairman Dean Hunter asked Altmann if more schools could be added to the community waiver list. She said these changes were being considered in the spring and stressed that it could go either way.

“Unfortunately, you may remember, a few years ago we lost two,” Altmann said.

She said the district lost waivers at Knollwood Elementary and China Grove Elementary and she hopes the schools will qualify for waivers again this spring. The district maintains accounts at each school to help children pay for meals, and the public may contribute to these accounts, as noted, to offset this uncollected debt.

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