SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — So many parents are behind on their lunch payments, the amount has grown to more than $100,000.

After Christmas break, schools will follow district policy and stop handing out hot lunches to kids behind on their lunch payments.

Today’s $105,000 is the largest school lunch deficit the Sioux Falls School District has ever seen. And it is growing by the day.

So on January 17, the school lunch program will begin following district policy.

“At that point, we are going to be looking at, we will be offering alternative meals for those that hit certain thresholds, dollar amounts, and also it is going to get to a point where we are going to have to refuse a meal to a child, and nobody in this district wants to be doing that at this point in time,” said Gay Anderson, Child Nutrition Coordinator for the Sioux Falls School District.

Right now, regular elementary school lunches cost $3.05.

Kids who qualify for the reduced lunches pay 40 cents per meal. The district says it is working to get more parents to fill out the necessary paperwork for free and reduced school lunch program funded by the government.

They will also work with parents to set up a payment plan.

“We don’t want to shame a child; we absolutely do not want to shame a child,” said Anderson.

For the past two years, federal COVID funds have paid for school lunches, getting parents back on board and paying has proven to be a challenge.

And that’s why the district is putting a focus on communicating with parents who may not fully understand the situation.

“We are working with our school principals, counselors, liaisons, and social workers to have them also assisting us to reach out to these families that they think may qualify, we need an application we need to get that first, and the other piece is how we can assist them with some of the funds that we are getting from some of the community members which has been a real blessing,” said Anderson.

As KELOLAND News first told you on Thursday, the district has created a new position. The Student Account Specialist will be working with parents and school officials to make sure kids have every opportunity to qualify for federal lunch programs.