I read with dismay the article published on Aug. 20 regarding the school lunch program. According to that article, the cost of all school meals will be raised by 40 cents. Based on the rising cost of commodities, an increase is understandable. However, the decision to increase meals by 40 cents instead of by 25 cents appears to be the result of thousands of dollars owed by parents in arrears. The children of those parents will now “be fed an alternative lunch……of less expense to the district.”
The parents who are deeply in arrears will likely continue to be in debt. The increase in the cost of meals will qualify a higher percentage of families for free or subsidized meals. That leaves the hard-working, dependable middle class parents who have always paid, to bear the full burden of the increase. That hardly seems right.
There is an obvious solution that was not even mentioned in the article: sack lunches from home! No meal should be provided by the district to those who can but do not pay. There is unlikely to be any stigma attached to a sack lunch, either. (That was a concern regarding the less expensive meals.) With a multitude of choices offered by Safeway, it would not take too much creativity to pack a nutritious and appealing lunch at home. No doubt many parents already do this, by choice. Breakfast should also be provided at home for those children whose parents are in debt. Give all families who do not qualify for free or reduced meals two choices: buy a school lunch or carry a sack lunch from home. The new on-line payment program is a great idea, and it will eliminate most of the problems with lost or forgotten money.
All old debts must be collected, and new debts must not be allowed. Only then can the program run efficiently. It might even be possible to keep the price increase at the original and more reasonable amount of 25 cents. I wish success to all who are involved in making the system work.