BY Paul Groessel
Sun POST Newspapers
After a report regarding Minnesota school districts’ policies about providing reduced-price lunch to students, an Osseo Area Schools representative said the district provides cold lunch to students who run a negative balance and will work to clarify its guidelines after some confusion.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid released a study that showed 46 school districts have policies that deny reduced-price lunch to students who reach a negative balance on their account. In response, Gov. Mark Dayton said on Feb. 11 that he would include $3.5 million in his supplemental budget proposal “to ensure that no Minnesota student is denied access to a hot meal at lunchtime.”
“No child in Minnesota should be denied a healthy lunch,” said Dayton in a statement. “We cannot expect our students to succeed on an empty stomach. I look forward to working with the legislature to make this issue a priority in the upcoming legislative session, and fully fund the bill authored by Sen. Jeff Hayden and Rep. Yvonne Selcer.”
Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, said he intended to do the same during the last legislative session. “It disappoints me that House Democrats chose special interests and partisan politics over children,” said McDonald. “I offered an amendment last year on the House floor that would have provided funding to ensure low-income children are not turned away from the lunch table for lack of payment.”
At Osseo Area Schools, 40 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunch. There are approximately 7,000 students in the free-lunch program, and 1,700 students in the reduced-price lunch program, School-Community Relations Director Barb Olson said.
The statewide study focused on students who are on reduced-price lunch. In general, when an Osseo schools student on the reduced-price lunch program runs out of funds, they are provided a cold lunch, said Olson.
That lunch is cold sandwich, typically cheese but sometimes another kind, along with fruit and a vegetable and milk. If a student runs out of funds after a certain number of times and receives this lunch instead, the district takes “problem solving” measures, which may mean staff consulting with the school principal or talking with a counselor, Olson said.
“It might look one way for one family and different for another,” Olson said.
With the release of the study, there have been different interpretations of the district’s guidelines, and it will likely clarify those, she said.
“Our intention is for no student to go without a meal,” Olson said. “… We are going to take a look at it because we realize there have been different interpretations about it.”
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