Iowa Senate could soon pass "lunch shaming" legislation
FORT MADISON, IA —
Right now, Iowa's school districts can deny lunch to students if they're behind on their lunch money.
The Iowa House passed a bill 97-0 last week. It prohibits Iowa school districts from denying a school lunch to students who are behind on their lunch payments.
Fort Madison Community School District is already following options described in this bill after revising its policy last summer.
"Kids that are eight or nine-years-old, they don't have a job they can't necessarily contribute to their lunch account but on the flip side, as a school district we have to make sure we are being fiscally responsible," said FMCSD Superintendent Erin Slater.
Slater says changes to Ft. Madison's food service policy came following long conversations with school board members.
"What we wanted to do is make sure that children are not in a separate line, children are not eating at a separate table, children are not going to an alternate location or picking up a completely different meal somewhere else where it could be easily identified that they have a negative lunch balance," said Slater.
Food Service Director Tiffany Fullhart says, "Everybody's situation is different."
Fullhart says now students take care of meal costs before going through the line rather than checking out after they get their food.
"At all of our schools they have two choices of fruit, two choices of vegetables, an addition to a grain, the main entree and milk," said Fullhart.
If passed, Iowa's school lunch legislation would force a school district to provide a meal for students regardless of debt. But Slater says this is something the school district has always done.
"The alternate entree which is a cheese sandwich which is reimbursable by the government so that makes us able to provide it even if students aren’t able to pay," said Slater.
Superintendent Slater says the district is now better able to communicate with parents about late payments through emails and mailers. She says that new system has reduced lunch money debt.
Around 50 percent of Ft. Madison students receive free or reduced lunch.
Applications are always available for financial assistance.
Link to the full bill: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=hf2467