Charlottesville, Albemarle County Examine School Lunch Program Debts
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are reviewing their school lunch programs.
Right now, students who want a lunch will get one regardless if they can pay for it.
That policy has the nutrition programs looking at their debt.
Students are never denied lunch in either school district, even if their account has a negative balance.
While schools try to work with families, the lost funds could take a toll on the lunch programs.
“It could be the difference between us having a full-time position,” Carlton Jones, Charlottesville City Schools’ nutrition administrator, said.
Staff positions and special food programs could be in jeopardy if school nutrition programs come up short.
But students in city and county schools may not always have $2.70 available to purchase lunch.
“More situations than not are the scenarios where a child simply forgets money for that day, the parents pay rather quickly, and in situations where families might be struggling a little more financially, so we work with them and try to get them eligible for free and reduced meals as soon as possible,” Christina Pitsenberger, the director of food services at Albemarle County Public Schools, said.
If a student is not part of the free or reduced lunch program and the balance stays negative, the area’s nutrition administration has to find another way to recoup the money.
“In the past, we've had community members come in and help pay it off,” Jones said. “This year, I've actually had a few people contact me. Last year, we had somebody anonymous come in and pay off half of the negative balances, yeah, so I mean sometimes if that doesn't happen then we are forced to take a loss.”
To recoup that loss, everything from letters and emails to weekly phone calls are used to inform parents of negative balances.
“We really work within the program,” Pitsenberger said. “Again, pursuing the families so accounts that are negative can carry from year to year just like positive accounts, so we just continue from year to year to really work with families to try to collect.”
Both Charlottesville and Albemarle County public schools require families to fill out forms for free or reduced lunch every year.
Charlottesville City Schools will have the forms available online for the first time for the upcoming school year.