Several Manhattan-Ogden schools are the recipients of more than $7,000 to pay off outstanding lunch debt.
Stephanie Smith, child nutrition director, said seven individuals or organizations had given funds to pay the lunch debt at seven elementary schools in the past few weeks.
“We’ve had donations in the past, but we’ve never had people or organizations who wanted to pay off entire schools’ debt,” Smith said. “It’s been $100 here or there, but nothing in these amounts.”
Smith said she wasn’t exactly sure what is driving the uptick in generosity, but she speculated that media accounts of lunch debt practices in other states is fueling part of it.
She clarified that the Manhattan-Ogden school district practices a “no lunch-shaming” policy that ensures students are fed regardless of the status of their lunch accounts. The district typically averages $24,000 in outstanding lunch debt across its schools, Smith said.
“We work with parents as much as we can,” she said. “We don’t give alternative meals, like cheese sandwiches or PB&J’s. They get the same meal as everyone else, and then we work with parents to pay off the debt.”
While only four schools have had their lunch debt completely paid, Smith said another organization had asked the district for the lunch debt amount at one of the schools. Details for that donation will come after the organization formally makes the donation. In the event that a donation only partially pays the lunch debt at a school, Smith said the school tries to spread the donation around as much as possible or works with the school social workers to determine families with pressing need.
The following schools received donations for lunch debt:
• Amanda Arnold, anonymous, $550
• Marlatt, anonymous, $380.68
• Northview, Antonio and Barbara Saverino, $3,141.59
• Eisenhower, donation made in name of Marvin Marsh, $2,077.44
• Woodrow Wilson, Dr. Ron Reese, $500
• Woodrow Wilson, anonymous, $200
• Lee, Marlatt and Ogden, $100 each from Landmark National Bank
Any donations over $500 must be approved by the school board, and the board will review the anonymous Northview donation and Reese’s Woodrow Wilson donation at its Wednesday meeting.