Lunch payment policies similar in area school districts

ST. MARYS - A recent letter to the editor prompted inquiries into lunch payment policies within area school districts in Elk County. St. Marys Area School District Food Service Director Jennifer Asti explained there are several options for students to pay for their breakfasts and lunches. Among them are setting up payment plans which can be made on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Most students opt to pay by the week or month, especially in the elementary schools; however, more daily payments are seen in the middle and high schools.A second option is applying for free and reduced lunches, which can be done at any time during the school year and as often as needed, especially if a family's income changes due to job loss or employment.Asti said each July, the school district receives a list of students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program without having to apply, as their family is receiving some sort of assistance from the state. Applications for the free and reduced lunch program can be obtained at school offices or completed online.The current cost for reduced breakfasts is 30 cents and reduced lunches are 40 cents, prices which are consistent across the state.Current meal prices within SMASD are 60 cents for breakfast and $1.50 for lunch at the elementary schools and 80 cents for breakfast and $1.75 for lunch at the middle and high school."We have the right to refuse [providing lunch if payments are not current], although it is our school district's policy that we choose not to refuse," Asti said. "We will provide a daily meal regardless."She explained that notices regarding missed payments are only sent home after a student owes for one week's worth of meals or more. Asti added that after three notices have been sent home with no response, in that parents do not attempt to set up payment plans or have not applied for free and reduced lunches, then the district has a right to restrict a student's account. This results in students receiving a lunch consisting of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as an alternate entree, along with any vegetables served with the regular lunch and a milk.Students are not permitted to have any ala carte or snack items or order an extra lunch until their balance is paid.Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.