AMES, Iowa -- The Ames School District says it will no longer cover lunches for students whose accounts are overdrawn.
“What our school had done previously was just that they didn't let us get extras. Instead, they just gave you a main course meal,” says Ames High School student Lydia Spurgeon.
The school board voted to approve a policy that prevents high school students with a negative lunch balance of $25 or more from purchasing food. The rules are the result of the district's nearly $110,000 in lunch charges debt stemming back to 2015 according to school board member, Rodney Briggs. The Department of Agriculture runs the school's nutrition program, and says in order to continue receiving school funding the debt must be paid off.
Briggs says the effort to crack down on the debt is crucial.
“The truth of the matter is if they looked at our funding and said, 'ah, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, we are cutting it,' it could negatively impact all areas that need funding.”
The board approved the policy six to one. Lewis Rosser was the only member to vote against it; he says by approving the policy, the district is supporting what he calls food shaming.
“Its 2017, we live in Iowa. It’s the bread basket of the world. We shouldn’t be treating children that way," he says.
Meanwhile, Briggs tells Channel 13 the rule will not affect students who receive free and reduced lunches; instead, it will be better protect them. However, other board members and students fear this could have a negative impact on kids who are just above the poverty line.
“If you are struggling to pay for your meals at home, then I think it’s only fair the school should be able to help and pay for the lunches at school, at least,” says Spurgeon.
The newly approved policy must be formalized and in place by July 1st. due to USDA requirements. The school board will host two more meetings this month to consider any changes to the policy.
According to a district spokesperson, the district has reduced its lunch charges debt to about $43,000.