St. Francis schoolchildren should not be denied lunch if their account balance falls into the red, the chairman of the St. Francis School Board said Tuesday morning.
Chairman David Roberts said he will be reviewing district policy today in the wake of a state report that identified St. Francis as one of 46 Minnesota districts that will immediately or eventually refuse to feed students who have insufficient funds in their lunch accounts.
“Lunch trays will be pulled from a student if there is not enough money in the account,” officials in the St. Francis School District wrote in a notice to parents of students in grades 6 through 12. “We do not enjoy pulling trays from students and it slows the lines for other students trying to get through.
Roberts, a father of four with a kindergartener and a second-grader, said he was not aware of the policy.
“I anticipate a heavy board discussion about this. I don’t feel in any, way, shape or form that is an acceptable practice,” Roberts said. ”As a parent I believe it is not the kids’ responsibility to make sure their lunch balance is accounted for. I don’t believe it should be taken out on the child when there is an oversight. … I don’t think a hungry student is one that’s going to learn well.”
Roberts said he will be meeting later today with district staff, including the head of nutrition services.
St. Francis Schools serves more than 5,000 students in northern Anoka County and southern Isanti County. It serves part of St. Francis, Bethel, East Bethel, Oak Grove, portions of Andover and Nowthen, as well as portions of Athens, and Stanford townships.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid surveyed Minnesota more than 300 school districts in 2013. According to their results, 46 districts reported a policy or practice of an immediate or eventual refusal to serve hot lunch or an alternative meal to a child who cannot pay. According to the report, 166 districts offer less nutritious alternative meals in lieu of providing a hot lunch or turning a child away and 97 school districts will always provide a hot lunch to a child even if the child cannot afford the fee.