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Lunch program in South Point district sparks concerns

SOUTH POINT – How students pay for lunch at South Point High School has become a topic of concern not only for the school district but for the state’s education department.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

SOUTH POINT – How students pay for lunch at South Point High School has become a topic of concern not only for the school district but for the state’s education department.

Currently, students pay with cash or by receiving tickets either for free or reduced lunch. The free and reduced lunch tickets are color-coded, which violates compliancy mandates set by the ODE.

What impact does this have on the students? Quite a bit, according to statistics.

During research for grant monies, William Morrison, the district’s technology coordinator discovered a despairing trend in the number of students who participate in the free or reduced lunch program.

About 50 percent of elementary-aged children participate in the free or reduced lunch program, which is based on a formula to determine the financial status of the child’s family.

Morrison said that by the time students reach the middle school level, the percentage drops into the teens, and by the time the child reaches the high school level, the percentage of children taking advantage of the program has reduced to single digits.

"The same children from the same families," Morrison explained are suddenly dropping off the roles.

The reason, administrators guess, is based on a perceived stigma attached to receiving free or reduced-price in lunch.

So, what are students doing about lunch?

They are either paying for the meals out of their own pocket or, and more likely, the students are skipping lunch opting to go without food than to participate in the program which they are eligible.

The school district also suffers financially from this trend. With fewer students taking the free or reduced lunch program, the school district receives less reimbursement money from the state. Plus, the number of students participating in the program is a factor in some formulas to determine grant funding for the school district.

The school is looking into alternative methods for students to pay for lunch. One method the school board has looked at involved a debit card type system where students would enter a identification number or swipe a card. For students that normally pay for the lunch, money would automatically deplete from a prepaid account and students who receive free or reduced lunch would be able to order lunch without any of their classmates the wiser – eliminating any social stigmas attached to receiving free or reduced lunch.

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