YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After a local school district posted about a fundraiser to help alleviate school lunch debt, First News dug a little deeper to see if other schools were experiencing the same problem.
“It’s right around eight thousand in the negative um it was significantly higher um in the fall leading into winter,” said Tammi Pearch, Director of Food and Nutrition at Poland Schools.
Pearch with Poland Local Schools says the debt has improved by sending out emails, calls and texts to remind parents to pay. She says the debt issue is happening everywhere.
“Comparing the negative balances at the end of last school year in June and then halfway through year is jaw dropping,” said Pearch. “You know, people are struggling, I think people are struggling. And in ways that they’re not used to struggling.”
“I think inflation and how the cost of everything now has increased. It’s put a lot of families in a bind,” said Toby Gibson, the Brookfield Local Schools Superintendent.
According to Gibson, the district is dealing with about $22,000 in school lunch debt. That’s why the district is hosting pasta dinner to raise funds this Saturday.
“We’re just looking to help our families that have been struggling over the past few years pay off some of their lunch debt so we can wipe the slate clean and move on,” said Gibson.
Even if students are in debt, they’re not going to go hungry. In Poland, there is food available for the students. Students receive the same treatment at Brookfield as well. Gibson is hoping to see some changes for schools nationwide.
“I would love to see the free lunch come back for all students. Especially in these uncertain times,” said Gibson.
In the meantime, both districts want to remind parents to apply for free and reduced lunch. That application can be filled out anytime during the year.