Study after study shows children do better in school when they have a full stomach, but not every family can afford the price of a lunch. Locally, the number may surprise you. As of this month, 2,014 students in the Sioux Falls School District have overdue balances on their lunch accounts. All together, they owe $10,802.87.
"The squeeze on money and funds and gas and food and utilities and all those kinds of things. We understand there are certainly reasons why that can be," Joni Davis, Sioux Falls School District Child Nutrition Supervisor, said.
Our look at this issue stems from a few national stories. Workers at a Utah Elementary School took away already-served food from students who had negative balances in their lunch accounts. In Texas, a man handed over $465 of his own money to his local school to help students in similar situations.
You do not have to worry about workers taking away a child's food in Sioux Falls if they have a negative balance.
"Before someone would receive a cheese sandwich and milk, which is something substantial, and we make sure the kids have something they can have for the rest of the day, we go through a process. We're always working with the building principal at the elementary level in case there's something we don't know or if there's something we're missing about that situation," Davis said.
District employees will remind families about overdue payments by providing an apple stamp on the child's hand. Then a letter is sent home with a reminder. If payment is still not made, the lunch staff will work with the principal and teacher to see if there is an issue that is creating challenges for the family. From there, the family has a number of options. The child may qualify for free or reduced lunch. If not, the district will point out community programs that may help.
Davis hopes the story of the Texas man who donated to his local district inspires more goodwill at schools everywhere in the country.
"Oh, it's always marvelous when people want to help families in any way they can. And certainly, and understanding there's lots of reasons why it happens, but it may be there and be an issue," Davis said.
If anyone wants to help, you can contact Joni Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Child Nutrition Services at 1101 N. Western Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD 57104.