DERRY — The school administration is looking at ways to keep overdue school lunch balances at a minimum when students come back to the district’s cafeterias in the fall.Under new federal school lunch program guidelines, school districts are required to transfer any overdue funds for the lunch program from the general fund into the food services fund, according to district business manager Jane Simard.As of the end of July, the district is still owed nearly $8,000 for the lunch program, according to Simard.
In addition to lunches that may have been charged by students, that figure also takes into account breakfasts, extra snacks and milk.
“The district has paid the bill to the food services program, and now the district is sending letters to parents requesting they pay the balance of what their students owe,” said Simard. “Once the students make the payments, we credit their payments on the food services end. Any student owing more than $1 was sent a letter requesting the payments.”
Simard said the payments have started to come in, but that there are still a number of large balances the district is looking to collect. She said the district has received a number of checks or people walking in with cash to pay the smaller past due amounts.
“It is the smaller amounts that are coming in, and it’s a little discouraging,” said Simard. “There are some large balances that are due for students, so we are hoping that those get paid prior to the new school year.”
Over the summer, Simard said she will work with the School Board’s food services committee on some policy changes that could help lower the amount of overdue balances in the food services department.
In the K-8 school district, no students are denied a lunch if they cannot pay or have not paid an overdue balance.
Simard said that policy does not necessarily apply when students begin high school at Pinkerton Academy.
“I believe the students get $5 or two lunches, and there is no charging,” said Simard. “It’s a different deal with students who are 15 or 16 as they are responsible and have the ability to bring in their own money for a lunch. First- or third-graders are reliant on their parents to pack their lunch or to pay for the food for lunch.”
Simard said the district will continue to work on ways to improve the overdue balance situation for the coming school year.