MOSES LAKE – A Moses Lake student’s concerns led the school district to change how it handles lunches for high school students.
The school district is allowing high school students two emergency meals if they have a negative balance on their school account. The student must pay for the meals and the negative balance before they are eligible for any more emergency meals.
The district changed its policy after a student reported a fellow student was denied lunch because he needed $1.20 more to pay for the meal.
The witness claimed the employee “took the food and threw it in the garbage can,” after arguing with the student.
Superintendent Michelle Price said the district investigated the allegations Monday and found the student was told he needed more money purchase lunch, but the staff member didn’t throw the food in the garbage.
“The student was told if they could get the money, the issue would be resolved. According to the staff member and other adults who saw what had happened, the student left the cafeteria and did not return, which led to the food ultimately being disposed of,” Price said.
All students receive an account and a card at the beginning of the school year where money can be put to pay for school-prepared meals. Students can also use cash to pay for the meals.
The accounts list whether the student can receive free, reduced or paid lunches.
To purchase meals using the card, students must have a positive balance in their accounts. When a student has about five meals worth of funds remaining, staff are required to notify either the child or the parents so more money can be added.
Elementary school students are given a written notice to take home to their parents. Middle and high school students receive verbal notification from the staff at the time of purchase.
Any elementary or middle school students who are unable to pay for meals after receiving two emergency lunches can still receive a “minimal meal” of a sandwich and fruit, until the outstanding balance is paid.
High school students do not qualify for a minimal meal option.
Price said the goal is not to punish students or deprive them of food, but to help them learn responsible behaviors.
“The program is designed around teaching personal responsibility and how finances work. We understand that elementary students might not know the best ways to handle money or how a bank account works yet. When they get to middle school, we start placing a little more responsibility on the students and by the time they reach high school, they’re a few years away from entering college or the workforce, so it’s an ideal time to start that process of being responsible with money,” Price said.
Moses Lake parents can access their children’s meal accounts through the Skyward system. Parents can arrange to receive a warning when their child has less than $5 in their account.
For more information, contact the district office at 509-766-2650.