Manteca Unified has reduced the balance for unpaid student lunch charges from last school down to $109,784.
A federal mandate in 2016 forced the district to allow lunch charges in a bid to make sure all students ate lunch even though Manteca Unif8ied never let any student go hungry as they provided students that didn’t have lunch money peanut butter and crackers as well as access to the garden bar. The federal move was made in part because some districts elsewhere in the country were “lunch shaming” students that weren’t paying for lunch by taking them out of lunch lines and giving them two pieces of bread with a slice of American cheese or a peanut butter sandwich.
As a result, the first year charges were allowed got out of hand. By the time last school year ended, students had charged $370,000 worth of meals. There was $212,000 still owed when summer recess started. After the first week of school this year that figure was dropped down to $204,000
There is now just $109,784 outstanding from last year.
If the money is not collected, it will have to be covered form the general fund. What is still owed would be enough to pay for the salaries and benefits for one and a half starting teachers.
Efforts since August that have helped step up the collection of lunch debt include:
Changing the verbiage and format in letters to make it clear it is a request for payment.
Envelopes sent home are now marked “urgent.”
Principals have been contacting families in a bid to get them to be more receptive and forthcoming about circumstances that may allow them to qualify for free or reduced meals.
Direct certification via Medicaid has increases access to reduced and fee meals starting Jan. 1.
Families understand the charge policy better than they did last year, promoting more to use the prepayment system.
Under the new policy the board adopted in August addressing student lunch charges other changes included:
Charges are not allowed at the high school.
Parents/guardians have the ability to opt out making their child ineligible for charging meals.
Payments will be accepted through cash in line; payment on student accounts through cash, checks or online (PayPams), or credit card.
Payment arrangements may be made through Nutritional Education.
Failure to pay could result in exclusion from certain school activities, reporting to the Manteca Unified School District Health Services, collection procedures, and referral to appropriate social service agencies.
Parents are being notified via letters mailed weekly, phone calls, and direct contact.
High school lunches jumped 50 cents this year to $2.75 while elementary lunches are up 25 cents to $2.25. Other prices are $1.25 for elementary breakfast (students at campuses that are Breakfast-in-Classroom sits are not charged for breakfast), $1.50 for high school breakfast, $3 for adult breakfast, $4.50 for an adult lunch, $3.50 for a sibling lunch, $1.25 for water (schools do have drinking water faucets) , and 50 cents for milk.
During the 2016-2017 school year Manteca Unified served 4,955,736 meals including 2,228,367 breakfasts, 2,382,894 lunches, 47,766 snacks, 152,587 suppers, and 89,742 summer meals. On an average school day — excluding summer meals — the district serves 27,033 meals. Overall enrollment is just under 24,000.
In some cases parents may not realize they are eligible for free or reduced lunches. In addition the maximum income limits were raised this year. At the end of last school year, 59.5 percent of all students qualified for reduced and free lunches. That’s down from more than 62 percent several years ago.
A sliding scale based on household size is used to determine eligibility,
To qualify for free lunches a two member household can’t make more than $21,112 a year, a three member household more than $26,546, a four member household more than $31,980, a five member household more than $37,414, a six member household more than $42,848, a seven member household more than $48,282, and an eight member household more than $53,716. You add $5,434 for each additional family member.
To qualify for reduced price a two member household can’t make more than $30,044 a year, a three member household more than $37,777, a four member household more than $45,510, a five member household more than $53,243, a six member household more than $60,976, a seven member household more than $68,709, and an eight member household more than $76,442. You add $7,733 for each additional family member.
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